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Robot Video Thursday: Nothing Related to Thanksgiving at All

In some parts of the world, today is Thanksgiving. That's why I'm going to Canada: I'm a friend of the turkey, man. That doesn't mean I'm not busy stuffing my face with Canada food, though... Maple syrup-cured moose meat, probably. That's a staple up there, yeah?

Anyhoo, we're kinda taking the day off around here, but to keep you from figuring that out, we're going to toss you a bunch of random robot vids from the last week or two as a distraction. Ready? GO!

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Inflatable Ant-Roach Robot is Big Enough to Ride

This robot is called Ant-Roach. Ant-Roach is called Ant-Roach because to those with a fanciful imagination it looks a bit like a cross between an anteater and a cockroach, although it'll take an even more fanciful imagination to figure out a way that that could ever naturally come to pass. Imagination or no imagination, this thing exists, it moves, and you can ride it (AWESOME).

And, it's completely inflatable, muscles and all.

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Kinect-Powered Robot Lets You Clean Up Your House Remotely

Yaskawa's SmartPal VII is perhaps not the friendliest looking (or most modern looking) mobile manipulation robot. It may also not be the smartest, but that's okay, since it's designed to be teleoperated, relying entirely on you to provide the brains.

No pressure.

Using a Kinect gesture interface and motion-tracking system, the SmartPal VII is perfectly suited to wander around your mom's house, "cleaning up" for her by snapping the necks of her stuffed animals like twigs at your command.

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Meet the New World's Fastest Micromouse Robot

One year ago, we got super excited when a micromouse managed to negotiate a maze in under five seconds. At the 2011 All Japan Micromouse Robot Competition in Tsukuba, the micromouse pictured above shaved an entire second off of that time, completing the maze in a scant 3.921 seconds. That's fast.

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Senseless Drawing Robot Should Probably Be Arrested

I'm a big fan of robots that are purpose-built to do something wonderful and useless, especially when that thing is against the law. Designed by So Kanno and Takahiro Yamaguchi, the "Senseless Drawing Robot" (that's them calling it senseless, not me) combines random programming with even more random motion to spray paint randomness2 along whatever wall you park it next to. One thing's for sure: humans aren't allowed to be doing this.

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Robotic Pillow Pokes Snoring Humans in the Face

This robotic pillow bear sure looks comfy. And he is comfy. So comfy, in fact, that you're supposed to fall asleep on him. But you'd better not start snoring, because if you do, the robot will gently reach over and smack you in the face:

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Harvest Automation Beta Testing Robot Farmers

We've been following Harvest Automation for a couple years now, since they've got a bunch of ex-iRobot people on board and they started out in stealth mode, which is a combination that's just inviting wild speculation. The plant has been out of the pot for a while, though, since Harvest Automation was revealed in 2008 to be primarily interested in, um, the automation of harvesting. Surprise?

In searching for ways to leverage Roomba-style (simple, specific, and reliable) technology in a new market, Harvest decided to give agriculture a try. Specifically, they've come up with a little robot whose only purpose in non-life is to pick up potted plants and move them from place to place. Potted plants are heavy and need to be moved frequently to optimize their spacing, and if you've got a big enough ornamental plant farm, that's a lot of people with a lot of sore backs.

The robots, not having backs, are much better suited for this, and using a variety of simple but accurate and reliable local sensors, they can either completely take over from humans, or work alongside them if the robots happen to be feeling magnanimous.

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Watch This Robot Control a Person's Arm Using Electrodes

robot control human arm

When this robot needs a hand, it borrows yours.

In an experiment that opens a new chapter in human-machine interaction, a French research team has demonstrated how a robot can control both its own arm and a person’s arm to manipulate objects in a collaborative manner.

The robot controls the human limb by sending small electrical currents to electrodes taped to the person's forearm and biceps, which allows it to command the elbow and hand to move. In the experiment, the person holds a ball, and the robot a hoop; the robot, a small humanoid, has to coordinate the movement of both arms to successfully drop the ball through the hoop.

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This Is What DARPA's Robot Ostrich Will Look Like

I'll bet you didn't know that DARPA was even interested in a robotic ostrich, did you? I sure as heck didn't. But I suppose it shouldn't be that surprising, since DARPA seems to want robotic versions of just about anything that's capable of extreme levels of performance, and an ostrich apparently fits the, uh, bill.

The above image is a rendering of the eventual form of a robot called FastRunner, a project led by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), in Pensacola. MIT's Robot Locomotion Group is a partner in the project. FastRunner uses a novel* leg design that should allow it to efficiently sprint at speeds of over 30 kilometers per hour while stabilizing itself and only using one actuator per leg. It'll also be able to run over moderately rough terrain, albeit at 15 km/h, which is still probably going to give even a talented human a run for their money. To put the speed of this robot in perspective, a human can sprint at about 40 km/h over short, level distances, while an actual ostrich can hit almost 100 km/h, with sustained speeds in the 70s. 

So far, FastRunner consists of legs and body in simulation, plus one full-scale test leg. When completed, the robot will weigh about 30 kilograms, stand 1.4 meters high, and offer fast, efficient, and very robust motion for whatever potentially sinister applications DARPA can dream up:

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IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
Contact us:  e.guizzo@ieee.org

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Erico Guizzo
New York, N.Y.
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Evan Ackerman
Berkeley, Calif.
 
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Canada
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Tokyo, Japan
 

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