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Video Friday: IROS 2013, Swarming Quadrotors, and Baxter Tries Not to Stab You

IROS and iREX have been spectacular, but we've barely had time to sit down, much less write articles. And there's still more to see: IROS wrapped up on Thursday, but we're heading back for the last full day of iREX tomorrow. So, expect to see a lot more IROS news from us next week, but for now, we'll get you caught up on (non-IROS) robot news from this week, and we'll throw in some new IROS videos for good measure.

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IROS 2013: JPL's Microspine Rock-Climbing Robot

At ICRA 2012, JPL introduced its microspine gripper system, which uses hundreds of tiny little claws to grip rough surfaces. We saw some video of a robot hanging from one of these, but it was just being used as a passive anchor. At IROS this week, JPL researchers presented a new video showing an upgraded version of their gripper integrated onto their LEMUR IIB robot, turning it into the "world's first rock climbing robot."

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HiBot Demos New Amphibious Snake Robot

Japanese company HiBot, specialized in robots for extreme environments, will unveil the latest version of its ACM-R5H snake robot at the International Robot Exhibition (iREX) this week in Tokyo.

HiBot says the new model is more modular and easier to customize that earlier versions. You can easily attach more segments to the snake's body to make it longer, or remove segments if you need a shorter robot. Users can also use payload compartments in the snake's front and rear modules to add custom sensors or cameras. The new ACM-R5H uses HiBot's advanced robot controller based on an ARM Cortex-M4 processor.

iREX takes place at Tokyo's Big Sight convention center from Wednesday to Saturday (we'll be there to report on the coolest stuff), and HiBot setup a pool in its booth to demo its robot snake. And if you stop by, ask the company about its "secret project involving robot snakes." They wouldn't tell me anything about it, but maybe they'll tell you? If you're not in Tokyo, the video below shows off some of the robot's capabilities.

[ HiBot ]

IROS 2013: Quadrotor Wheel Can Fly, Float, and Roll

One of the things that we love most about IROS are the completely novel robot designs that show up out of nowhere. MUWA or "Multi-field Universal Wheel for Air-land Vehicle" (and also Japanese for "Dream Ring") is one of these designs: it's a quadrotor surrounded by a circular piece of foam that makes it capable of (among many other things) balancing itself sideways like a wheel and rolling along the ground.

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We're at IROS 2013 in Tokyo!

IROS 2013 started over the weekend here in Tokyo. We've set up camp at Tokyo Big Sight, an appropriately futuristic building out in Tokyo Bay. We checked out some workshops on Sunday, and today are the start of the technical sessions. Thirteen tracks take place at the same time, with back-to-back 15 minute presentations. Technical sessions run through Wednesday, with more workshops on Thursday, and iREX (the International Robot Exhibition) starts on Wednesday.

It's probably safe to say that there is more robot stuff going on in Tokyo right now than has ever taken place anywhere else, ever.

What we're going to do is bring you all of the most interesting new research that we possibly can, along with as much of iREX as we can cram into our cameras. It's not going to be physically possible to write and publish it all this week, so expect to see IROS and iREX news continuing for at least a week or two after we get back.

And with that, we're off!

[ IROS 2013 ]

Video Friday: Unstoppable Drones, Rock-Paper-Scissors Robot, and Nao Is a Chatterbox

This is it, folks. Tomorrow we head to Japan, and into the loving embrace of IROS (IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems) and iREX (International Robot Exhibition), from whence few ever return.

Well, I guess we should say that pretty much everybody does actually return, but that doesn't make it any less death-defying for your intrepid team of bloggers. We've got 153 sessions on our schedule for IROS alone, and iREX (which only happens every other year) is a big exciting unknown. Over the next week, we'll probably be on a weird schedule (whatever time zone you're in, Tokyo is probably the opposite of it), but keep checking back because we'll be putting up as much robotic amazingness as we possibly can without killing ourselves. Or maybe a little bit beyond that.

So yeah, definitely stick with us, because you won't want to miss anything that happens next week. And if you missed anything that happened this week, we'll get you all caught up courtesy of Video Friday.

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Humanoid Robot Demonstrates Sign Language

How do you say "robot" in sign language?

With the DARPA Robotics Challenge looming large on the horizon, it's easy to overlook robots that aren't taking part. One of them was Nino, a humanoid unveiled earlier this year by the National Taiwan University's Robotics Laboratory. Unlike the DARPA robots, Nino may not find itself performing tasks in dangerous situations any time soon. But this robot has some special skills: It is likely the first full-sized humanoid to demonstrate sign language.

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IEEE Spectrum’s award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, drones, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
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Erico Guizzo
New York City
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Evan Ackerman
Washington, D.C.

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