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Video Friday: Dances With Robot Arms, ROS Turns Five, LittleDog Says Hello

It's December. December means holidays, December means vacation, December means that you should call in sick today, sink into your couch, make yourself a mug of hot cocoa, and watch robot videos until everything you see looks like it's made out of a slightly less than infinite number of tiny little ones and zeros. Unfortunately, the only part of that that we can help you with is providing those robot videos, although we did manage to find this cocoa recipe from a blog that's supposedly by authored by some sort of robotic chef. So, there you go.

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AR Drone That Infects Other Drones With Virus Wins DroneGames

AR Drones can be much, much more than awesome toys. Just recently, we've see how the (relatively) inexpensive and versatile flying robots have been used as research tools, but the sky's the limit as to what you can do with them, so to speak. DroneGames, which took place over the weekend in San Francisco, tasked programmers with hacking the UAVs in the most interesting and creative ways possible.

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Liquid Robotics' Wave Glider Completes Pacific Crossing

It’s Thursday, 6 December, in Australia, and “Papa Mau,” an autonomous vehicle that propels itself by tapping into wave energy, has arrived in Australia. Launched from San Francisco by U.S.-based Liquid Robotics, Papa Mau traveled 16 668 kilometers, during which, the company says, “he weathered gale force storms, fended off sharks, spent more than 365 days at sea, skirted around the Great Barrier Reef, and finally battled and surfed the East Australian Current.” During this journey he measured chlorophyll blooms and gathered other data, all of which was transmitted to researchers in real time.

Sibling robot Benjamin is following behind, and is expected to show up in Australia early next year. Two other robots set off for Japan; one is still en route, a second has detoured back to Hawaii for repair.

Photos: A Wave Glider in action, above. Four robots set off across the Pacific last year, below. Credit: Liquid Robotics

NASA's Mars Program Now Includes 2020 Rover

It's been just four months since Curiosity landed on Mars, and NASA is already planning for her successor. At a press conference held in conjunction with the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco yesterday, the agency officially announced its intention to land a next-generation version of the rover on Mars in 2020.

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CyPhy Works Exits Stealth Mode with 'Unlimited Duration' Surveillance Drones

Ex-iRobot founder Helen Greiner's new company, CyPhy Works, has been doing something secret involving drones for the last several years, and as of today, we've found out what it is: UAVs that can operate for "unlimited" amounts of time. It's not some sort of fancy fuel cell or wireless power transfer technology; rather, if you look closely at the image above, you'll see that CyPhy's UAVs are using a new solution that is actually very old: an unbroken, continuous cable that connects the UAV to its ground station at all times.

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Georgia Tech Robots Learn Deceptive Behaviors from Squirrels

We know, we know, robots being deceptive sounds like a bad thing. Potentially a very bad thing. But the fact is, deception is everywhere, and for good reason: being deceptive is often the most efficient and effective way to protect yourself from harm. Deception is by no means unique to humans, either: animals are masters at deceiving other animals (and us), and Ron Arkin's group at Georgia Tech has been teaching robots to learn deception from a pro: the squirrel.

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Underwater Robots Know Where They're Going

Twisty underwater ravines and seas with moving icebergs provide tricky terrain for an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to navigate; that’s why underwater vehicles sent to investigate such areas rely on remote piloting from shipboard.

That won’t be necessary for much longer, according to engineers from Stanford University’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). They have developed a system that allows an AUV to consider both an existing terrain map and its own view of obstacles in its path as it “flies” over the sea floor.

Stanford doctoral student Sarah Houts took an existing terrain-relative navigation system developed by Stanford and MBARI—one that allows an AUV to navigate by matching its altitude to a terrain map—and added algorithms that enable the vehicle to plan its route to steer around obstacles spotted ahead. Eventually, Houts indicated, the system should be able to go into unmapped areas and find its way around safely.

Houts hopes to adapt this technology to an upcoming MBARI effort to use AUVs to follow icebergs around and sample them. NASA’s program on Astrobiology Science, and Technology for Exploring Planets might someday use a similar system to monitor asteroids. (NASA is funding Houts’ work.)

The system had its first test in Monterey Bay earlier this month, flying over an underwater cliff at a constant altitude. It will undergo trickier tests before the end of the year, and Houts expects it to be fully operational next year.

Photo: Earlier this month, this autonomous underwater vehicle tested software that enables it to adjust its path according to obstacles or uneven terrain spotted in its path. Photo credit: Sarah Houts/Stanford University

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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:  e.guizzo@ieee.org

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