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Video Friday: Retro Robots, Mobile Manipulation, and Mario

I have to imagine that when you work at an industrial robotics company, it must be a lot of fun to come up with trade show demos. You can throw practicality and efficiency entirely out the window, and instead try and come up with the most entertaining thing that you possibly can, whether it's fighting with light sabers or battling humans with Wiimotes. So here's to you, Industrial Robot Demo Maker Person. We salute you, and your latest idea involving robots, slot cars, and Mario. And there's more, of course, because it's Video Friday.

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NASA Lets Curiosity Rover Loose on Mars in Autonomous Driving Mode

It is constantly amazing to me that we have a robot (two robots!) driving around on Mars right now. On MARS. If we were being grumpy about it, however, we might call a robot like Curiosity a (very sophisticated) remote controlled vehicle, since it's "driven" by humans back here on Earth. Only, it isn't anymore, not entirely: on Tuesday, JPL gave Curiosity her head, letting the rover decide where to drive itself.

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Futuristic Concept Cleans Your House With Robot Flies

While we mostly like to post news about real robots doing real robot-y things, it's sometimes fun to take a look at impossible concepts, especially if they're a.) utterly insane and b.) provide enough foundation for us to convince ourselves that they're not actually completely entirely totally impossible, even if they are. 

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Interview: Scott Hassan on Willow Garage and the Future of Suitable Technologies

When Suitable Technologies announced that it was absorbing most of Willow Garage last week, we pinged both companies to see if we could get any additional information about what was going on. Yesterday, we spoke with Scott Hassan, "the key software architect/developer of Google" and the founder of both Willow Garage and Suitable Technologies, about why it was the right time to close down Willow, and what this means for Suitable.

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Video Friday: Atlas Unboxing, RHex Plays Fetch, and Terminators Get Real

I'm still waiting for an Atlas robot to arrive on my doorstep from Boston Dynamics (since I'm a famous and occasionally handsome Internet journalist, I'm assuming they're sending me one for free), but some other robotics groups have gotten theirs first. This hopefully means that we're about to see a huge number of videos show up on YouTube featuring Atlases doing all of the stuff that Boston Dynamics doesn't want you to see. Like those butt scoots from the simulation challenge. Check out some of the very first videos of Atlas in the wild, and more (more!), because it's Video Friday.

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Is Spiri the Programmable Quadrotor You've Always Wanted?

There's an autonomous, programmable drone on Kickstarter right now called Spiri. For under $600, you get a quadrotor that runs ROS and can autonomously execute flight commands so that you don't have to worry about all the tricky stuff like not crashing. It includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cameras, GPS, an accelerometer, a gyro, a magnetometer, temperature and pressure sensors, and a nifty 3D time-of-flight camera system. It's designed to be a platform that you can easily innovate on without having to deal with hardware.

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Majority of Willow Garage Employees Move to Suitable Technologies, PR2 Still Supported

Suitable Technologies, the Willow Garage spinout that created the Beam remote presence system, announced today that it has "retained a majority of employees from Willow Garage." A press release sent out this morning and also posted on Willow Garage's blog says Suitable will "use the combined resources to further product development, sales, and customer support." As for Willow itself, the release only says it will "continue to support customers of its PR2 personal robotics platform and sell its remaining stock of PR2 systems."

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Giant Solar-Powered UAVs Are Atmospheric Satellites

The largest robot in the AUVSI expo hall last week belonged to Titan Aerospace. It was a model of their Solara 50 robotic atmospheric satellite, and they had to chop off the tail and most of the wings to get it to fit. The Solara is intended to lift a payload to 20,000 meters and then keep it there for five years, running entirely on solar power. It functions a bit like a satellite, except substantially cheaper and much more versatile. And, you can get it back when you're done.

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Automaton

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

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Erico Guizzo
 
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Evan Ackerman
 
 
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Angelica Lim
 

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