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This Robot Makes Its Own Custom Tools Out of Glue

Humans are generalists. We’re adaptable. If there’s a task we can’t do on our own, we find ourselves a tool to help us. Robots aren’t usually like this, because it’s very hard to design a robot that implements all the different tools that might conceivably be useful to it. Roboticists at ETH Zurich are trying to get around this problem by designing a robot with just one tool, but the tool they’ve chosen is a hot glue gun that their robot can use to manufacture any other tools that it needs to.

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Jamming Grippers Combine to Form Robotic Elephant Trunk

“Jamming” has to be one of the coolest new actuation techniques we’ve seen in the last couple years, and we’ve recently covered a bunch of fascinating implementations of it, including walking robots and grippers that can throw stuff. MIT may have just topped everyone by developing a robotic elephant trunk that’s strong, flexible, and, since it’s made mostly out of coffee grounds, absolutely dirt cheap.

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Clothbot Has No Trouble Navigating Your Pants

Last year, we met CLASH, arguably the first purpose-built cloth climbing robot ever constructed. Clearly, just having one robot that can conquer clothing is not nearly enough, and a team of roboticists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences has decided that we need a little robot specifically designed to climb up wrinkles.

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JPL Designing Spiny-Fingered Grippers for Robotic Drilling on Asteroids


NASA JPL's Lemur IIB robot hanging from a microspine anchor. Image: NASA/JPL

We’re no strangers to innovative climbing robot research around here, but we don’t often get to see what happens when some of this technology makes that very difficult jump from laboratory curiosity to potential application. Aaron Parness was at Stanford working on climbing robots like Stickybot and Spinybot, and he’s brought Spinybot’s legacy to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where they’re working on a microspine adhesion system for sticking robot probes to asteroids.

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Laser-Equipped MAV Demonstrates Aggressive Autonomous Flight

Two weeks ago, we posted about quadrotors that were able to autonomously navigate outdoors, relying solely on IMUs and simple vision systems. What we found notable was that the robots didn’t need either GPS or a motion tracking system, implying that they could go out and do their thing in what some people like to call “the real world.” At ICRA 2012 yesterday, MIT’s Adam Bry presented a paper (and video!) demonstrating a micro air vehicle capable of the same sort of self-contained navigation, but indoors and impressively fast.

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Juggling Robot Takes on Two Balls With One Very Fast Hand

It’s been a few years since we’ve seen any new tricks from those amazing high-speed robot hands from Japan. Now another Japanese group, at Chiba University, has managed to teach one of their dexterous hand-arm systems to repeatedly juggle two balls at once with an incredibly lifelike motion, presented yesterday at the 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA).

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We're at ICRA 2012!

Here we are at yet another gigantic robot conference: it's ICRA 2012, the IEEE (that's us!) International Conference on Robotics and Automation, and this year's theme is "Robots and Automation: Innovation for Tomorrow's Needs." While we're not sure we know what that means, exactly, there's still going to be more than enough incredibly awesome robotics research to keep us busy for the next few days.

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Italian Quadruped Robot Goes for a Walk

HyQ quadruped robot

Last week, researchers from the Italian Institute of Technology took their quadruped robot HyQ for a test run outside the lab for the first time. The researchers were anxious to try some new tricks HyQ has learned, including the ability to trot over obstacles without falling. The robot is still a strange headless creature, and though a sensor head is in the works, this quadruped might get even weirder with a new hardware addition: arms. Yes, arms.

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Opportunity Rover Fires Up Engines, Starts Another Year Exploring Mars

This picture shows the spot that the Opportunity Mars rover has been sitting on for the last 19 weeks doing its level best to try not to starve to death from lack of solar power. Or I guess, unlevel best, since she was stuck on that little outcropping (called Greely Haven) to keep her solar panels oriented more directly at the sun. But now, the sun is high enough in the sky for Oppy to get her roll on, and she snapped this pic looking backwards after a 3-meter drive into unexplored terrain.

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