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RoboCops Now Guarding South Korean Prisons

The next time you find yourself in a South Korean prison (and don't worry, it happens to the best of us), this not especially friendly looking robot is going to be either your new best buddy or your new worst enemy. But probably the latter.

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Stanford Robot Block Party Has PR2s, SPHERES, More (Photos)

If you couldn't make it to the Robot Block Party at Stanford on Wednesday, you should probably take a minute and seriously re-examine your life goals. And after you've done that, head on past the break to check out our gallery of pictures from the event, which ought to give you a fairly good idea of all the robot fun that you missed out on.

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DARPA Selects Boston Dynamics' Humanoid for Robotics Challenge (UPDATED)

UPDATE 13 April 2012, 12:02 p.m. A notice posted on the U.S. Federal Business Opportunities website confirms that DARPA has selected Boston Dynamics as a "sole source" to develop and build the humanoid robots that the software teams will use in the DARPA Robotics Challenge. "Of the few existing humanoid robots," the notice says, "[Boston Dynamics] was deemed to be the sole viable supplier for providing the necessary robotic platform capability within the specified timeframe." Boston Dynamics will build 8 identical humanoids, which will be based on PETMAN (see below an exclusive photo we obtained) and Atlas, robots that the firm build for the U.S. Army and DARPA, respectively. The result is expected to be "a one of a kind humanoid robot with state of the art capability."

Just as we were getting ready to put together a big long post speculating on which humanoid platform DARPA would select for their newest Robotics Challenge, a video posted yesterday to the official DARPA YouTube channel has made all of that completely unnecessary: to the surprise of nobody, it's going to be a derivative of Boston Dynamics' PETMAN/ATLAS humanoid robot.

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DARPA Robotics Challenge: Interview With Gill Pratt

Gill PrattThe U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced yesterday an ambitious robotics program aiming to revolutionize disaster response robots. The DARPA Robotics Challenge is the brainchild of DARPA program manager Dr. Gill Pratt, a researcher and educator with numerous inventions to his credit.* We spoke with Dr. Pratt about the goals of the new effort and how it could change robotics in a big way.

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Can't Make It to RoboGames? Help Fund This Documentary

Here's the one terrible thing about RoboGames: it takes place here in California, and only in California. Don't get me wrong, this is great for me personally (since I happen to live here), but for the rest of you, you'll either have to come to terms with the fact that the West Coast really is where everything exciting happens and move out here already, or kick in some money and get a professionally produced Blu-ray and experience the event vicariously.

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DARPA Robotics Challenge: Here Are the Official Details

DARPA robotics challenge disaster reponse robots
Illustration of a disaster response scenario part of the DARPA Robotics Challenge: The robot on the right uses a power tool to break through a wall, and the one on the left turns a valve to close a leaking pipe. Image: DARPA

DARPA to the robotics community: the challenge is on.

Today the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is announcing a bold new program aiming to advance robotics technology for disaster response. The DARPA Robotics Challenge is offering tens of million of dollars in funding to teams from anywhere in the world to build robots capable of performing complex mobility and manipulation tasks such as walking over rubble and operating power tools. It all will culminate with an audacious competition with robots driving trucks, breaking through walls, and attempting to perform repairs in a simulated industrial-disaster setting. The winner takes all: a $2 million cash prize.

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Robotic Octopus Takes First Betentacled Steps

The holy grail of the whole soft robotics initiative that many research groups are so interested in is, arguably, the octopus. Anyone who has ever seen an octopus in action can understand why: they're capable of some extraordinary maneuvers, thanks to relatively large brains, very fine motor control, and a near-total lack of bones. The Octopus Project is a European, er, project that's working on "investigating and understanding the principles that give rise to the octopus sensory-motor capabilities and incorporating them in new design approaches," and their newest design approach is this fully mobile roboctopus with eight soft tentacles.

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Video Friday: Happy Easter, With Robots

Robots, I guess, are really big on Easter. What has led me to this conclusion is the sheer volume of vids that have cropped up this week. So, let's just see how many videos (not all Easter related, by the way) we can cram into one single post. Aaaaaand, GO!

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The Future of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Is Open

open robotics
Image: Darwin-OP schematic via Robotsource

This is a guest post by author William Hertling. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect those of his employer, the IEEE, or IEEE Spectrum.

At South by Southwest Interactive last month, I debated the future of artificial intelligence with my co-panelists.

The roboticist on the panel argued that AI is an intellectually challenging field where the problems are difficult, and therefore can be solved only by highly intelligent people working on obscure mathematics and algorithms. The future, he argued, will look much like the past: a series of incremental, hard-won improvements in very narrow fields.

I disagree.

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