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White House to Host Robotics Hangout on Friday

If it were up to us, robotics would be a top priority for the United States Government. A top priority. Unfortunately for us (and fortunately for everyone else) we are most definitely not in charge of those sorts of policy decisions. It's always nice, however, when people who do have a little bit of pull get interested in robotics, and on Friday, the Obama Administration will be discussing the National Robotics Initiative with a bunch of robocelebrities on a Google+ Hangout.

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NASA's Curiosity Rover Turns One on Mars

Depending on what time zone you're in, today is the first anniversary (or birthday) of Curiosity, NASA's intrepid little Volkswagen-sized Mars rover. We've got a soft spot for Curiosity, partially because it's one of the most awesome robots ever constructed, but also because we were camped out at JPL to watch her land last year. The picture above is of a TV monitor in the JPL press room, showing the first two images that we got back from the surface of Mars. It was epic.

NASA and JPL are celebrating this week with some cool videos, the last of which has to be one of the most touching tributes to a robot we've ever heard.

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Gasbot Sniffs Out Climate Destruction With Lasers

Jobs don't get much more dirty than being the person who has to hike around landfills looking for sources of stinkyness. It's an important job, though, because stinkyness means methane, and methane means you're killing the planet. Yes, you. But seriously, figuring out where landfills are leaking is a critical and tedious and decidedly unpleasant thing, and you know what that means: bring on the robots!

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Video Friday: Baxter Gets a Turbo Mode, Nao Steps on Things, and Robonaut Doesn't Like You

Video Friday is late today. It's late because we were too depressed to get out of bed this morning. Last night, we heard from a member of the Kinect for Windows developer team that they have "no plans" to release open source drivers for the next generation Kinect, meaning that all of the awesome and magical things that the original Kinect enabled for robotics won't evolve into even more awesome and more magical things with Microsoft's new sensor. 


All we can do is try to move forward and make ourselves feel better in the only way we know how: with robot videos.

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Flying Walking Robot Turns Wings Into Legs

Here's a new robotics term for you to memorize: multi-modal locomotion. It means locomoting in multi-modes, and that just means getting around in more than one different way. Most animals are multi-modal: they can walk and swim, or walk and fly. This isn't a coincidence, because there are clear advantages to being able to do move multi-modally, with capability and efficiency coming out near the top of the list. The disadvantage is that generally, you need a substantial amount of extra hardware for each mode of locomotion, but EPFL has managed to create a UAV that can use its wings to walk.

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HyQ Quadruped Robot Learns to Avoid Stumbles, Visits London

Last year, we wrote about HyQ, a quadruped robot designed for rough terrain missions. Created by a team at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), HyQ was learning to walk and trot, and was also able to jump and even kick things. The robot uses hydraulic actuators, which allow it to move quickly and nimbly, with an eerie animal-like quality. Now HyQ has learned another important skill in life: how not to fall on its face when it stumbles on an obstacle.

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Hexapod Figures Out How to Walk After You Chop Its Leg Off

If the movies have taught us anything, it's that chopping a futuristic death robot's leg off does not significantly diminish its capacity to hunt you down. Want to know where that capacity for being utterly unstoppable came from? It's this, right here.

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Crowdsourced UAV Rescue Squad Gets Put to the Test

You'd think that nobody really wants to be spied on by drones. In fact, there is one group of people who desperately want to be seen by drones. Or, really, seen by anybody, human or robot or whatever. And those are the people who are hopelessly lost.

Even in our relentlessly connected world, it's still alarmingly easy to end up in a situation where you have no idea where you are, and more importantly, even less of an idea how to get somewhere where you would know where you are. And it's not like realizing that you're lost does you any good: the key is for someone else to realize the same thing, and then do something useful about it. This is where the drones can help, but humans need to pitch in as well.

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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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