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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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Video Friday: Robo Cheetah Goes for a Trot, Mind-Controlled Arms, and Robots Playing Football

You didn’t think that just because we’re going all-out covering ICRA that we’d let any other cool robot news slip past us this week, did you? Of course you didn’t! There are many more awesome ICRA articles in the works for next week, but in the mean time, here are two robot vids that weren’t at the conference, plus several more that definitely should have been.

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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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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
New York, N.Y.
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Berkeley, Calif.
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Angelica Lim
Tokyo, Japan

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