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Here Are The (Rumored) Specs for the Next Generation Kinect Sensor

PrimeSense may be busy making its next-gen sensor smaller and not more powerful, but Microsoft isn't looking to stuff Kinect into mobile devices. The next generation Kinect is going to be an integral part of Microsoft's next gaming console, (widely expected to be released at E3 in June), and there's a rumor that it will come with some beefed-up specs, which we've got for you in a nice handy table. Will it make your robot better, smarter, and faster? Well, maybe.

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DFKI's Space Rovers and Hexapods Will Team Up on Other Planets

Why send just one robot into space when you could send two robots into space instead? We did it with Spirit and Opportunity, and that worked out great is mostly still working out great. It would have been working out even better, though, if we'd let Spirit and Oppy get each other's backs and team up to do some extra exploring. That's the idea that DFKI Bremen has been testing with its pair of space robots: a four wheeled rover named SHERPA and a hexapod named CREX.

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UK Unveils 'Affordable' Self-Driving RobotCar

At this point, seeing robot cars pop up at places like CES is getting less and less surprising and more and more frustrating as we think about just how many hurdles these vehicles have to drive over before we'll actually get to start using them. Don't get me wrong, there's been substantial progress, but when researchers say things like "hey we can make a car autonomous for $150"—as U.K. researchers said about their recently unveiled RobotCar project —it's time to get excited (and frustrated) all over again.

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Video Friday: Back Rubs, Scrum Simulators, and Robot Theater

I don't know about you, but we've had quite a week this week. So seriously, we're more than ready for a nice relaxing weekend, and the only thing standing between us and that is a few more hours of work plus a whole bunch of robot videos.

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Open Source Robotics Foundation Accelerates ROS Transition, Hires Key ROS Developers From Willow

It's not entirely clear what's going to happen at Willow Garage in the next weeks and months, but there has been a substantial amount of concern within the robotics community about the future of ROS, the Robot Operating System. ROS has grown far beyond Willow Garage, and is now being used by researchers, hobbyists, and industry all over the world. With Willow changing, what's going to happen to ROS? The Open Source Robotics Foundation has a blog post that should make you feel a bit better about the future.

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Rat Robot Beats on Live Rats to Make Them Depressed

One of the two rats in the above picture isn't really a rat. One of the two rats in the above picture is, in fact, a robot. Look closely and you can just barely figure it out. Meanwhile, the rat that isn't a robot is seriously depressed, because that's what this robot specializes in: rat depression.

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Robot Penguins Spy on Real Penguins

Scientists and filmmakers love to deploy robots in disguise to spy on real animals. They've sent drones to film herds of elephants and zebras in Africaarmored mobile robots to photograph Kenyan lions, and animatronic apes to get close-up footage of bonobos. Now the BBC has sent 50 special cameras, including robot penguins that can walk and swim, to get inside penguin colonies and capture never-seen footage of the adorable flat-footed, tuxedo-clad birds in their natural habitats.

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UPDATED: Willow Garage to Shut Down? Company Says 'No, Just Changing'

UPDATE 11/12/13 3:03 p.m. EST: Our latest stories on Willow Garage's dismantling, including an exclusive interview with founder Scott Hassan:

Majority of Willow Garage Employees Move to Suitable Technologies, PR2 Still Supported

Interview: Scott Hassan on Willow Garage and the Future of Suitable Technologies

And for more on Willow Garage's spin-offs, read:

UBR-1 Robot From Unbounded Robotics Revolutionizes Affordable Mobile Manipulation

Startup Spotlight: Industrial Perception Building 3D Vision Guided Robots

Redwood Robotics Brings Big Names to Next Gen Robot Arms

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UPDATE 02/11/13 11:37 p.m. EST: 

Willow has just released a response, which we're posting below in full:

Willow Garage has decided to enter the world of commercial opportunities with an eye to becoming a self-sustaining company. This is an important change to our funding model.

The success of the PR2 personal robot and of ROS will continue. There are close to 50 PR2 robots in the world and Willow Garage support of the platform will not diminish. And of course, ROS, as an open source platform, will continue independent of our business model choices. In addition to Willow Garage, its supporters include the Open Source Robotics Foundation and all the other contributors in the ROS community (academic, industrial and individual) who have made it the platform of choice for Robotics.

While Willow declined to comment on our original story before we posted it, as far as we can tell Willow's response doesn't directly contradict any of the information that multiple sources (including current Willow employees and past Willow employees) have told us. Our concern is that if the change of funding model is as simple and as innocuous as Willow's post makes it sound, we would not have received multiple, consistent tips over the weekend that something very serious had happened. Our original headline, stating that the company was to shut down, reflected the information that these sources gave to us. We now have decided to update it in response to Willow's official statement. We hope to receive further clarification from the company.

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IEEE Spectrum has learned that Willow Garage, the Silicon Valley robotics powerhouse that brought the world the PR2, ROS, TurtleBot, and several robotics spinoffs, will likely be dissolving within the next few months.

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Floating Robotic Shipping Containers Team Up to Create Islands and Runways

Well, it was only a matter of time: first, there were robot swarms on the ground. Then, there were robot swarms in the air. And now, we've got robot swarms taking over a swimming pool. Run for the hills! Or really, you'll probably be fine running for any sort of dry land if you want to escape this swarm of robotic boats. But why would you want to do that? It's not like they're part of some sort of DARPA project that will one day take over the world or something. Nope, definitely nothing like that.

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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

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Erico Guizzo
 
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Evan Ackerman
 
 
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Jason Falconer
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Angelica Lim
 

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