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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. 

Sigh.

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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RHex Does Parkour All Over UPenn

One of the most vertically exciting papers presented at ICRA this year was "Toward a Vocabulary of Legged Leaping," by Aaron M. Johnson and D. E. Koditschek from the University of Pennsylvania's Kod*lab. Once we made it past the word "vocabulary" in the paper title, we knew it was going to be something good, and it totally was, even taking home a nomination for Best Student Paper. RHex has been practicing its jumping skills, and UPenn has a tremendous new video of the robot doing Parkour across campus rooftops.

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Robot Puts Box On Head

Robots have a tendency to move rather a lot like, um, robots. How dare they. The smooth and natural motions that we humans are so proud of comes from a combination of many different motions all at once: if you pick something up, you're generally not just using your arm like a robot does, but rather, subtly moving your arms, wrists, hands, torso, and even your head. With a new movement algorithm, iCub is learning to move in a much more human-like manner, even with complex motions.

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Automaton

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

Editor
Erico Guizzo
New York City
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Washington, D.C.
 

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