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Warehouse Robots Get Smarter With Ant Intelligence

Amazon may have just gotten its claws into Kiva Systems, but there's more than one company out there looking to automate warehouses with smart little robots. At the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics, researchers are looking for ways to make warehouse robots smarter and more efficient by getting them to communicate and cooperate like a swarm of ants.

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Video Friday: PackBots on Steroids, RoboJellies on Hydrogen, and Rodney Brooks on Industry

The world, whether or not it needs robotic jellyfish, now has two robojellies to choose from. It's the future, people. And there's more future to be had where that came from, since we'll also show you some new wheels for PackBots, a new way to control robots with augmented reality, and Rodney Brooks will tell you what's going on with the future of the robotics industry.

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iRobot and Willow Garage Debate Closed vs. Open Source Robotics at Cocktail Party

In this guest post, Frank Tobe, a robotics analyst and publisher of The Robot Report, describes a recent debate between two prominent robotics executives and their opposing views on how to nurture profitable robotics businesses.

iRobot Colin Angle, Willow Garage Bob Bauer
Left: Colin Angle, co-founder and CEO of iRobot, in Bedford, Mass. Right: Robert Bauer, executive director for commercialization at Willow Garage in Menlo Park, Calif.

What's the best approach to building commercially successful robotics companies: To develop specific, proprietary products that satisfy the needs of large markets, or to develop and share free, open-source technologies and wait for the commercial applications to emerge?

These two points of view were presented by executives from iRobot and Willow Garage in a spirited cocktail party debate the other evening in Lyon, France, at InnoRobo 2012, a trade show for service robotics. Here's how it happened, who they were, and what they said.

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The Pirate Bay Planning 'Low Orbit Server Drones'

The Pirate Bay, the file-sharing site, has, at this point, generally accepted the fact that their front-end servers are perpetually at risk of being confiscated by some government or other that they've ticked off with their crazy ideas of freedom of information. Whether or not you agree with what The Pirate Bay represents, you can probably understand the seriousness of what they're up against, so it's not really that surprising that they've been looking for a place a bit more out of reach to stash their hardware. Their latest idea? Low Orbit Server Drones.

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Robotics Trends for 2012

What's in store for robotics in 2012? Nearly a quarter of the year is already behind us, but we thought we'd spend some time looking at the months ahead and make some predictions about what’s going to be big in robotics.

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Amazon Acquires Kiva Systems for $775 Million

Kiva Systems warehouse robots
Photo: Joel Eden Photography/Kiva Systems

Looks like Amazon is getting some robots. LOTS of robots.

The giant online retailer announced today that it is acquiring Kiva Systems, a North Reading, Mass.-based company that invented a revolutionary way of managing vast warehouses by using fleets of mobile robots to sort, organize, and transport inventory.

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Our First Look Inside SAFFiR, the U.S. Navy's Firefighting Robot

When we posted about SAFFiR last week (the firefighting robot being developed by Virginia Tech's Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory), the best we could offer you in terms of imagery was a picture of CHARLI, a diagram, and a gratis screenshot of a flaming Terminator robot. Now Dr. Dennis Hong, the director of RoMeLa, wrote in to share these pics of what SAFFiR actually looks like right now.

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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:

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

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