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Japanese MH-2 Shoulder Robot Wants To Be Your Friend, Literally

Nobody likes being alone, and Japanese researchers from Yamagata University are developing a robot to make sure you’ll never have to be alone again: the MH-2 wearable miniature humanoid lives on your shoulder and can be remotely inhabited by your friends from anywhere in the world. 

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Smart Pebble Robots Will Let You Duplicate Objects on the Fly

MIT Smart Pebble Robots

Imagine that you could toss an object such as a wrench into a container filled with tiny robots and, within seconds, the robots would "sense" the shape of the wrench and bind to each other to form a replica of the tool. Creating robots that could turn this sci-fi-like scenario into reality is the goal of an MIT team led by Professor Daniela Rus. They call the technology Smart Sand.

The project still has a long way to go. The robots the researchers have developed consist of relatively large cubes, each 12 millimeters on a side, but the team hopes to be able to shrink the modules in the future. In the mean time, the group is addressing another challenge: How to convey the shape of an object to lots of modules that have limited computational resources.

At this year's IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), in St Paul, Minn., Kyle Gilpin, one of the researchers, presented an algorithm capable of doing just that. He also showed video of a working prototype that, although it can duplicate only a very simple object, shows the potential of the technology.

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Robot Finger Does What Your Finger Can't

The thing (well, one of the things) we love about robots is that they can be designed to do things that humans can't. It's not just that they can do human-y things better—it's that they can take a piece of our selves (like fingers) and improve on them to enable totally new capabilities. Osaka University's Omni-Finger is just such a robot, giving artificial fingers an entirely new dimension.

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Lingodroid Robots Invent New Words for Time

Last year, we were introduced to Lingodroids, which are small robots capable of developing their own language. This isn't a computer language, but more of a human language, with words that we humans could speak if we wanted to. These words have been invented by the robots themselves, using a variety of games to establish correlations between specific words and places, directions, and distances. And last week, Scott Heath from the University of Queensland in Australia presented a new paper on how the Lingodroids have been teaching themselves brand new words for different lengths of time.

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Video: How Robonaut's Compliant Arms Work

NASA Robonaut 2 Humanoid Robot

Last year, we told you how Robonaut's dexterous hands rely on tendon-driven fingers to grasp objects much like our own hands do. Now we're going to show you how Robonaut's arms work. You probably noticed that the robot has a perfectly toned upper body with brawny biceps and six-pack abs. But if you're working alongside this burly bot (hello ISS crew!), fear not: Robonaut has fully compliant arms and even a built-in emergency shut-down mechanism. And as our video below shows, he's also one cool, fist-bumping robot.

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Microbots Made of Bubbles Have Engines Made of Lasers

We're used to thinking of robots as mechanical entities, but at very small scales, it sometimes becomes easier to use existing structures (like microorganisms that respond to magnetic fields or even swarms of bacteria) instead of trying to design and construct one (or lots) of teeny tiny artificial machines. Aaron Ohta's lab at the University of Hawaii at Manoa has come up with a novel new way of creating non-mechanical microbots quite literally out of thin air, using robots made of bubbles with engines made of lasers.

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TurtleBot 2 Prototype Unveiled at ROSCon

Willow Garage introduced the TurtleBot in April of 2011 as a low-cost personal robot kit running open-source software. A year later, it's been an incredible success with researchers and hobbyists, and it's time to meet the next generation platform. Fans of the original TurtleBot needn't worry: TurtleBot 2 is intended to be just like the TurtleBot you already know (mostly) and love (when it works), except with a brand new full-featured base and a sinister flat-black color scheme.

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Video: Throwable Robot, Roomba-Riding Humanoid, and More from ICRA 2012

DARPA Arm Robot at ICRA 2012

If you couldn't make it to ICRA this year, don't worry: We'll bring ICRA to you. The 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation attracted more than 1,700 people to the River Centre convention center in St. Paul, Minn., last week. We've been keeping you informed about the coolest (and the weirdest) projects presented at the conference, and we still have many more stories to come. But today we want to take you to ICRA's show floor, where over two dozen exhibitors demoed their robotic creations. Check out our video montage after the break. 

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IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
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Erico Guizzo
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Berkeley, Calif.
 
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