Automaton iconAutomaton

IHMC's ATLAS Robot Learning to Do Some Chores

Since their flawless (well, almost flawless) second place finish at the DRC Finals, Team IHMC has been keeping their ATLAS robot busy. Busy doing what? Chores. Because if you have a multi-million dollar robot from the U.S. Government, you might as well get it to sweep up your Nerf darts with a broom.

Read More

Steerable, Motorized Cyborg Spermbots Take on Infertility

Traditionally, human procreation is all about accuracy through volume. Fire enough sperm at an egg (200-500 million is about average for a single, um, event), and if you’re lucky, a few of them (maybe a hundred or so) will eventually figure out the right thing to do, and one of those might end up leading to a successful fertilization. These are horrible odds, and it’s vaguely amazing that we manage to keep on making more of ourselves at all.

One futuristic approach (which has already been adopted by some of the more primitive insects) is to do away with the hundreds of millions of sperm, and rely on just one to get the job done. If you’re going to do that, your one sperm needs to be incredibly awesome, and thanks to science, it can be. Researchers from the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences at IFW Dresden in Germany have successfully tested tiny, magnetically-driven power suits for individual sperm that can turn them into steerable cyborg “spermbots” that can be remote controlled all the way to the egg.

Read More

Let’s Bring Rosie Home: 5 Challenges We Need to Solve for Home Robots

This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE.

Science fiction authors love the robot sidekick. R2-D2, Commander Data, and KITT—just to name a few—defined “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” and “Knight Rider,” respectively, just as much as their human actors. While science has brought us many of the inventions dreamed of in sci-fi shows, one major human activity has remained low tech and a huge source of frustration: household chores. Why can’t we have more robots helping us with our domestic tasks? That’s a question that many roboticists and investors (myself included) have long been asking ourselves. Recently, we’ve seen some promising developments in the home robotics space, including Jibo’s successful financing and SoftBank’s introduction of Pepper. Still, a capable, affordable robotic helper—like Rosie, the robot maid from “The Jetsons”—remains a big technical and commercial challenge. Should robot makers focus on designs that are extensions of our smartphones (as Jibo seems to be doing), or do we need a clean-sheet approach towards building these elusive bots?

Read More

One-Eyed Bug Vision Helps Drones Land

In an effort to build—and control—ever smaller drones, researchers have been looking at how insects navigate. Insects use a technique called optical flow, based on the apparent speed of objects passing by in their field of vision. In fact, humans use optical flow to give us a sense of how fast we’re going when we’re driving. 

Read More

Video Friday: Kicking a Robot, TV Drone Crash, and Supernumerary Lightsabers

Last week was a holiday, and we’re at CES this week, but nothing can stop the robot videos. Things should be back to normal around here next week (we hope). Let us know if you have videos or events to suggest, and enjoy today’s Video Friday selection!

ASSISIbf Winter School – January 12-14, 2016 – Lausanne, Switzerland
ASU Rehabilitation Robotics Workshop – February 8-9, 2016 – Tempe, Arizona, USA
The Future of Rescue Simulation Workshop – February 29-4, 2016 – Leiden, Netherlands
HRI 2016 – March 7-10, 2016 – Christchurch, New Zealand
WeRobot 2016 – April 1-2, 2016 – Miami, Fla., USA
National Robotics Week – April 2-10, 2016 – United States
Read More

Cooki: a Desktop Robotic Chef That Does Everything

CES has only officially been open for like 5 minutes, and already we’ve found something too awesome not to share immediately: a cooking robot from a startup called Sereneti that can handle everything for you, from cooking to stirring to adding ingredients at the right time. 

Read More

Toyota AI Team Hires James Kuffner from Google Robotics, Will Have Rodney Brooks as Adviser

Toyota revealed more details about its ambitious AI and robotics effort yesterday at CES in Las Vegas. Dr. Gill Pratt, who leads the effort as CEO of the newly formed Toyota Research Institute (TRI), announced an impressive line-up of engineers and executives to head its technical leadership team and advisory board. Among the hires is James Kuffner, who until recently led Google’s robotics program and will focus on cloud computing at TRI. The advisers include notable technologists like Rodney Brooks from Rethink Robotics and Marc Benioff from Salesforce.

Read More

Double 2 Telepresence Robot Has Better Stability, New Camera, and Turbo Button

Today, Double Robotics is announcing the Double 2 telepresence robot, which is (sadly) not called the “Four.” But it’s still worth having a look at, because it includes a brand new TURBO button which will turn your mild-mannered telepresence robot into a mostly stoppable force of non-destruction. And there are other cool new things, too.

Read More

The Economics of Drone Delivery

This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE. This post was originally published at the Flexport Blog.

Two years ago, Jeff Bezos promised that Amazon would soon deliver packages by drone. “I know this looks like science fiction,” the Amazon CEO told Charlie Rose on “60 Minutes” as he stood with several Amazon drones. “It’s not.”

Bezos’s primetime announcement sparked a lot of interest—and a media consensus that it was a publicity stunt to get Christmas shoppers thinking about Amazon. After all, federal law prohibited commercial drones from flying over populated areas, and airplanes were already experiencing close calls with hobbyists’ drones.

But the drone community is not acting like the prospect of delivering packages by drone is a pipe dream. Amazon just released an update of its Prime Air program. Executives at Google Wing claim they will deliver packages in 2017 via drone. Walmart has asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to test drone delivery, and venture capitalists have invested in drone delivery startups.

So what makes the drone community believe deliveries are a good idea? Assuming the technology works, do the economics make sense?

Read More


IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, drones, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
Contact us:

Erico Guizzo
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Jason Falconer
Angelica Lim

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Automaton newsletter and get biweekly updates about robotics, automation, and AI, all delivered directly to your inbox.

Load More