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Video Friday: Sphero Droid, Drone Jogging, and Robot Feeds You Marshmallows

One month from now, ICRA 2015 kicks off in Seattle, Washington. Are you ready? Got your hotel room? Awesome! We don’t, so let us know if we can crash with you, okay? Okay. Cool.

As we all know, ICRA stands for IEEE Conference of Robotic Awesomeness (or it should, at any rate). To get you excited, as if you weren’t already excited, the IEEE Robotics & Automation Society has put together a video of some of the coolest research that will be presented this year, with versions available in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Arabic, French, and Italian. See what you have to look forward too, plus all the rest of the week’s videos, because that’s right, it’s Friday.

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PR2 Robot Figures Out How to Make a Latte

Want some coffee? Just ask PR2. Clever new research from Cornell means that you can show the robot a coffee maker, hand it a sheet of natural language instructions, and it’ll fix you a latte, completely autonomously. Here’s the kicker: it can do all this even if it’s never seen the coffee maker before.

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Unlucky Robot Gets Stranded Inside Fukushima Nuclear Reactor, Sends Back Critical Data

It’s a really, really bad day to be a radiation hardened, shape-changing disaster exploration robot. Last week, TEPCO sent a robot deep inside the radioactive hunk of slag that used to be the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear reactor to try to find the fuel rods, which are, uh, missing (looks like they’ve fallen to the bottom of the reactor). Unfortunately for TEPCO, and for that poor little robot, it got stuck after approximately five hours, and will probably remain entombed where it lies until approximately forever.

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Video Friday: Robotic Kitchen, Swarming Drones, and Robots Want Your Blood

Programming a robot to operate in an unstructured environment like a kitchen and teaching it to use tools designed for humans to create a gourmet meal is an absurdly difficult problem. Maybe it doesn’t have to be, though, if we cheat a bit. U.K. start-up Moley Robotics has skipped a bunch of the hard stuff by using motion capture to record a professional chef cooking dishes, and then playing back those motions in an optimized robot-friendly kitchen with a pair of robotic arms and anthropomorphic robotic hands.

Watch it create a scrumptious pot of crab bisque, and then watch some other things, all on Video Friday.

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University of Pennsylvania Unleashes Robot Jerboa Upon the World

I don’t think any of us ever knew just how badly we wanted a robotic jerboa until suddenly, someone built a robotic jerboa. A jerboa is sort of like a gerbil, except crossed with a kangaroo, at least as far as mobility is concerned. Jerboas bounce around on two absurdly long legs in what seems like a very dynamic and efficient type of motion, especially if you take the tail into account.

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Who Is Gomtec, the Collaborative Robotics Company Acquired by ABB?

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.

Automation giant ABB announced today that it has acquired German robotics company Gomtec in order “to expand its offering in the field of collaborative robots.” The news is just another sign that lightweight, flexible robot arms is one of the hottest topics in industrial robotics. The announcement may also have left many wondering who is Gomtec?

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You Can Launch This Quadrotor by Throwing It in the Air

I’ll bet you thought that launching a drone by placing it on a level surface, standing back, and commanding it to take off was about as easy as it got, right? Wrong. Forget about level surfaces, forget about standing back, and just pick up your quadrotor and throw it. It’ll be fine!

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DJI Phantom Drone Gets Flight Control Upgrades, Powerful Cameras

The best-selling Phantom drone has received upgrades that make it even easier to control as a flying camera. The two new versions of the Phantom will likely help boost the popularity of DJI, a Chinese tech startup based in Shenzhen, as a leading commercial drone maker.

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DARPA Announces Tasks for DRC Finals

Late last week, DARPA released the final rules document for the DRC Finals. This document includes the list of tasks that robots will have to compete to score points, and we’ll take you through the details that are available of all eight of them.

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Video Friday: Robot Sword Fights, MIT Basement Racing, and RoboGames

I will never, ever, ever understand why robotics researchers seem to feel the need to persist in teaching their robots how to use swords, of all things. First Georgia Tech, then Stanford, and now Namiki Lab in Japan is doing it with robot arms that can move faster than you can. At some point, this is all going to go horribly wrong, but until that happens, we can enjoy the videos. And we have lots of videos this week, what with the perfect storm of National Robotics Week, RoboGames, and it being Friday. Here we go! 

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