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Russian Robonaut to Travel to Space Station Within Two Years

At a space industry conference last week, Russian officials announced that their version of Robonaut, the SAR-400, is currently undergoing testing at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre Research Institute, and will be making its way to the International Space Station (ISS) within just a few years.

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ExoMars Rover Starts Autonomous Fields Trials in Chile

Robots are pros at exploring space, because they're well-suited for all of the things that make space travel bad for humans: it's dull, it's dirty (in terms of radiation, anyway), and it's very, very dangerous. And, you know, the whole absence of air and water and food and warmth and all that stuff, too. NASA has had some incredible success sending robots to Mars in particular, and the European Space Agency (ESA) is preparing to send its own rover to the red planet in 2018. Before it gets there, however, it has to learn how to drive itself around, which is why it's first going to spend some time in Chile.

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UAV Concept: Mother Hen and Friendly Chicks

One of the more interesting concepts we saw at the AUVSI show this year (and possibly just ran across while we were sorting through our piles of conference swag) was this UAV, from Canadian company Eqquera. Called the SQ-EQQ, it consists of a "mother hen" autonomous delta-wing jet-thing that can deploy "friendly chick" sub-UAVs to conduct missions all by themselves.

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MIT Deploys Swarm of Self-Assembling Robot Cubes

We started to get just a little bit nervous last spring, when Daniela Rus and Kyle Gilpin from MIT introduced something called "smart sand." Smart sand was a pile of tiny little robotic cubes endowed with the capability of autonomously replicating any 2D shape that you poured them over. The only reason we're not all robots right now (we're pretty sure we're not, anyway) is that smart sand couldn't move by itself: you had to shake it around a bunch to get it to do anything. For some reason, MIT has decided to remove that safety feature by developing a version of smart sand THAT CAN MOVE ALL BY ITSELF.

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Video Friday: Boston Dynamics Updates, DASH Can Turn, and Inflatable Beer Bot

One of the (many, many, many) highlights of Video Friday this week are a trio of new videos from Boston Dynamics. The best one features WildCat, a brand new and totally awesome untethered quadruped that runs at 25 km/h (16 mph) outdoors.

In fact, it was so awesome, that we gave it its own article. So if you're one of those people who only stops by to read Video Friday (you know who you are), you'd better click here to check it out. And if you're one of those much smarter and better looking people who loyally read the entire site multiple times every day while telling everyone you meet how great it is, then congrats, you've already seen WildCat, and we can get on with the rest of the videos. Hooray!

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Whoa: Boston Dynamics Announces New WildCat Quadruped Robot

Boston Dynamics has just updated its YouTube channel with some new videos. One of them is an update on Atlas. Another is an update on LS3. And the third is this: WildCat, a totally new quadruped robot based on Cheetah, and out of nowhere, there's this video of it bounding and galloping around outdoors, untethered, at up to 25 km/h (16 mph). Whoa.

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What Should a Robot's Face Look Like?

At some point, we'll all have assistive robots in our homes. Even the most optimistic projections (and we're not responsible for any of those) put it a ways out, and the first place these robots will show up will likely be in an elder care capacity as opposed to doing our laundry. There has been a lot of (appropriate) emphasis on function, but form is very important as well, and the big question (or one of them, at least) is how human we should try to make these robots, and how much it matters.

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Meet NASA's Futuristic Drone Research Lab

Last week, NASA and AUVSI invited a carefully selected, elite group of media (which obviously included IEEE Spectrum) to take a tour of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems programs at NASA Dryden. The Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC) is located approximately in the middle of nowhere, inside Edwards Air Force Base on a huge dry lake bed out in the Mojave desert. The remoteness of the area, plus the availability of over 100 square kilometers of empty flat lake bed to land on if necessary, makes Dryden a fantastic place to test out all kinds of futuristic and occasionally bizarre aircraft. And we got to meet a few of them.

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Robotic Boat Hits 1000-Mile Mark in Transatlantic Crossing

“Scout,” a 4-meter-long autonomous boat built by a group of young DIYers, is attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean. It is traveling from Rhode Island, where it launched on 24 August, to Spain, where all being well it will arrive in a few months’ time.

Scout has now gone about 1000 miles (1600 kilometers) of its planned 3700-mile (5900 kilometer) journey. Should it complete this voyage successfully, its passage will arguably belong in the history books.

I say “arguably,” because it won’t be the first time a robotic vessel has crossed the Atlantic: Scarlet Knight, a sea-going robot fielded by researchers at Rutgers University, did that in 2009. But Scout stands to beat out Scarlet in my mind, for several reasons.

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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.
Contact us:

Erico Guizzo
New York City
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Washington, D.C.

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