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Video Friday: Obama vs. ASIMO, 3D Printed Hands, and Drone Delivery Fail

This week, President Obama is in Japan. We assume he's got some business to take care of, doing whatever it is a president does (we have no idea what this would be), but we're gratified to see that he made some time for robots, which (as far as we're concerned) is the reason that one goes to Japan.

In the past, Obama has had generally positive experiences with robots, although HRP-4C creeped him out a little bit. We're with ya on that, Chief. This time, Obama met ASIMO, which showed off its soccer skills. Video of that, and plenty more, after the break. It's Video Friday!

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Gecko Adhesives Moving from Robot Feet to Your Walls

Few robots are as elegantly designed as Stickybot, Stanford's original robotic gecko. The bio-inspiration extends all the way down to the toes, which featured an early generation of gecko toe adhesive. Geckos stick to things using van der Waals' forces generated between the tiny fibers on their toes and whatever surface they're on: it's not sticky in the same sense that glue or tape is sticky; it's a molecular attraction that works on the smoothest of surfaces and can be used over and over. It sounds like something that might be useful apart from robots, and it looks like artificial gecko toes are about to go mainstream, with super strong, reusable Geckskin.

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KMel's Hexrotors Put on Autonomous Musical Spectacular

We love KMel Robotics because they're a fantastic example of how it really is possible to take robots straight out of a research environment and use them to do awesome stuff that also (we assume) is to some extent commercially viable. This is an incredibly hard jump to make for any company, but KMel has done it in style, and their latest performance piece has a large swarm of hexrotors playing (and controlling) a symphony of musical instruments.

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Quadruped Robot Pneupard Takes Its First Steps

Last year, Boston Dynamics' Wildcat quadruped robot managed to "escape" its lab in spectacular style, galloping in a parking lot at up to 25 km/h (16 mph). But Wildcat is just one of a growing pack of quadrupeds under development in robot laboratories around the world.

Another example, hailing from Osaka University, is Pneupard, a biologically-inspired quadruped robot powered by pneumatic muscles. When we last saw this robot over a year ago, it was far from complete. Now a new version, equipped with all four limbs, is taking its first steps.

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Hitachi's EMIEW Robot Learns to Navigate Around the Office

First unveiled in 2007, Hitachi's adorable little service robot EMIEW 2 has been gradually improving over the years. Standing 80 centimeters tall and weighing 14 kilograms, the robot is rather unusual in that it moves on a combination of legs and wheels, a system that works a bit like roller skates. Recently Hitachi announced that the robot's software is able to understand its environment better than before, allowing it to mingle more harmoniously among workers in busy settings like offices and hospitals.

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Watch SRI's Nimble Microrobots Cooperate to Build Structures

Over the past year or two, we've seen all kinds of creative robots and robot teams that are learning how to build things. Recently, we've highlighted Harvard's TERMES Project, and we're particular fans of this robot that builds ramps by tossing thousands of toothpicks and glue into a giant random pile.

SRI International has also been developing construction robots, but on a much smaller scale, with swarms of magnetically actuated microrobots that can work together to build macro-scale structures.

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Repurposed Military Drones Create Mobile Wireless Hotspots

The military is pouring a huge amount of resources into unmanned systems like UAVs. Every year, drones get fancier and more capable, which means that there's an increasing number of slightly less fancy and slightly less capable drones gathering dust and feeling lonely in a hangar somewhere. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has an idea of what these drones might be good for: not delivering weapons, not surveillance, but instead providing mobile high-speed network connectivity for deployed troops.

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Patent Suggests Sony Still Sees Future for Household Robots

When Sony shuttered its entertainment robotics division back in 2006, and after its Rolly (an egg-shaped robotic music player) was met with consumer apathy the following year, we thought it was safe to say the Japanese electronics giant was finished with robots for good. However, a recently published patent application suggests the company might be considering a come back of sorts.

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Automaton

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

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

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