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Here's How NASA Will Grab an Asteroid Using a Spiky Robot Gripper

Within the next five years, NASA is planning to launch a robotic spacecraft toward a small asteroid. Once there, the robot will find a small boulder lying on the surface of the asteroid, pick it up, and bring it back to Earth for us to have a look at. It’s an ambitious mission, and we’re only just starting to hear details about what’s going to be involved in getting all this to work.

Earlier this week, we stopped by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., to check out some of the prototype hardware that’ll be grabbing a boulder off of an asteroid in the early 2020s.

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Fetch Robotics Secures Massive $20 Million Investment from SoftBank

Fetch Robotics, a robotics startup in Silicon Valley that didn’t exist a year ago, has just announced a staggering US $20 million Series A funding round led by SoftBank, along with additional funding from seed investors O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and Shasta Ventures.

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DURUS: SRI's Ultra-Efficient Walking Humanoid Robot

While disaster robots were making their way through the DARPA Robotics Challenge courses, over in the exhibit area outside, there was another competition taking place: an endurance challenge, also sponsored by DARPA, where robots from Sandia National Labs and SRI International slowly walked on treadmills with the goal of demonstrating how ultra-efficient they could be.

What does ultra-efficient mean in the context of walking robots? Think humanoid walking that’s 20 to 30 times more efficient than than Boston Dynamics’ ATLAS. A full size humanoid robot with that level of efficiency would able to operate for anywhere from 4 to 6 hours on a single charge.

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Robotic Tools Understand What You Want to Do, Help You Do It

The idea of robots that are “collaborative” is usually about robots that are safe for humans to work next to. Sometimes, a collaborative robot might assist a human by performing one step of a task while a human performs another step of the same task. What’s a bit more unusual are robots that are collaborative in that they work directly with a human, augmenting the abilities of that human with intelligence, not just strength.

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Video Friday: PR2 With Nailgun, Snake Bot Tango, and Robot vs Sword Master

Over the past few weeks, between ICRA and the DRC Finals, we’ve had enough incredible and exciting and amazing and stupendous robots to last us the rest of the summer. But of course, while we were focused on Seattle and Pomona, other cool robotics stuff was happening. We’re going to get you caught up on some of it today, in a post that we promise will have zero DARPA Robotics Challenge content, because after more than a dozen posts in like five days, we all need just a little bit of a break.

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DARPA Robotics Challenge: Amazing Moments, Lessons Learned, and What's Next

The DARPA Robotics Challenge is over. It will certainly be remembered as one of the defining robotics competitions of the decade—full of drama, hardship, and inspiration. We brought you as much of it as we could, including a detailed look at the winning robot, a fun compilation of robots falling, and our impressions of the first day of the competition. And we still have a lot more to come! But for now, to cap it all off, here are things that stood out to us about the final day of the DRC Finals, and a hint of what to look forward to in the future.

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How South Korea's DRC-HUBO Robot Won the DARPA Robotics Challenge

On Saturday, Team KAIST from South Korea emerged as the winner of the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) in Pomona, Calif., after its robot, an adaptable humanoid called DRC-HUBO, beat out 22 other robots from five different countries, winning the US $2 million grand prize. The robot’s “transformer” ability to switch back and forth from a walking biped to a wheeled machine proved key to its victory. Many robots lost their balance and collapsed to the ground while trying to perform tasks such as opening a door or operating a drill. Not DRC-HUBO. Its unique design allowed it to perform tasks faster and, perhaps more important, stay on its feet—and wheels.

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Team KAIST Wins DARPA Robotics Challenge

It was a nail-biting final round as the top teams of the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals tried to catch up with Team KAIST, which earlier today had completed a perfect run, scoring the maximum 8 points in 44:28 minutes. Two teams also scored 8 points, but Team KAIST, from South Korea, had the best time, winning the top spot and the US $2 million grand prize.

KAIST’s robot, called DRC-HUBO, was a bipedal humanoid. But unlike other humanoids, such as the ATLAS robot used by several other teams, DRC-HUBO had modifications, including wheels on its knees, that allowed it to perform tasks faster and, perhaps more importantly, avoid falls. (Read our in-depth article on how DRC-HUBO helped Team KAIST take first place in the competition.)

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DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals: What We Learned on Day 1

We’ve been looking forward to the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals for years. The DRC Trials in December of 2013 showed us how much potential disaster robots had, and yesterday and today, those robots are competing against each other to prove their utility in hardware and software in a mock disaster scenario.

Hopefully, you’ve been following our posts and social media coverage. If not, a good place to get started is this post about the robots and this post about the course, and we’re tweeting like mad from @AutomatonBlog and @BotJunkie. DARPA is streaming everything they can, so you should tune in to catch a little bit of the action.

All kinds of amazing things happened yesterday, so in pictures and commentary, just before we start with Day 2 of the Finals, we’re going to take you through everything we learned on Day 1.

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

Erico Guizzo
New York, N.Y.
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Berkeley, Calif.
Jason Falconer
Angelica Lim
Tokyo, Japan

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