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An Uncanny Mind: Masahiro Mori on the Uncanny Valley and Beyond

Masahiro Mori Uncanny Valley
Masahiro Mori at his home in Tokyo.

In this guest post, Norri Kageki interviews Masahiro Mori, who, as a professor of engineering at Tokyo Institute of Technology in the 1970s, proposed the now-famous concept of the uncanny valley. [Read the first authorized translation of his seminal article here.] Mori's insight was that people would react with revulsion to humanlike robots, whose appearance resembled, but did not quite replicate, that of a real human. He called this phenomenon bukimi no tani (the term "uncanny valley" first appeared in the 1978 book Robots: Fact, Fiction, and Prediction, written by Jasia Reichardt).

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Bosch Introduces New Autonomous Robotic Lawnmower

We got a tip over the weekend that Bosch is introducing (or, has just introduced) what a press release (machine translated from Swedish) calls the "world's first intelligent robot lawn mower," the Bosch Indego. Well, we're not entirely sure about the world's first bit, but from what we can tell, there are definitely some features here that will make the Indego more intelligent than some of its competitors.

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Video Friday: Humanoid Goes Swimming, a Last Moment Robot, and R2D2 Sells You a Prius

Believe it or not, we still have ICRA posts in the works, and there's all kinds of other long-term awesome stuff going on around here that we'd love to tell you about but can't (HA!). But rest assured, we're now more optimistic about robotics than we've ever been before. Today's Video Friday, however, has absolutely nothing to do with any of that.

Incidentally, if you spot anything particularly cool that you think belongs in a Video Friday (or deserves a post all on its own), get in touch! We're on Twitter, Facebook, and you can even email us if you hate social networking. Meantime, on to the videos!

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DASH Roachbot Learns Acrobatic Flips from Real Cockroach


Uh, don't geckos eat cockroaches? Photo: Jean-Michel Mongeau, Ardian Jusufi, and Pauline Jennings (UC Berkeley PolyPEDAL Lab) 

DASH, UC Berkeley's 10-centimeter long, 16-gram Dynamic Autonomous Sprawled Hexapod, has learned a new trick: the robot can now perform "rapid inversion" maneuvers, dashing up to a ledge and then swinging itself around to end up underneath the ledge and upside-down. This replicates behaviors in cockroaches and geckos, and may lead to a new generation of acrobatically-inclined insectobots.

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Quadrotor Learns How Not To Swing Stuff

One of the ways in which robots are just starting to get really useful is with hauling aerial cargo. Last year, the optionally-manned KMAX made its first autonomous cargo delivery in Afghanistan, and since it can fly as many missions as you have fuel to keep it going, it's definitely a safer and more efficient way to get supplies to troops, especially in dangerous areas.

To move cargo around, helicopters (autonomous or otherwise) often carry stuff slung beneath them on long ropes, and as you can probably imagine, said cargo often ends up doing all sorts of swinging about, especially if the helicopter that's carrying it has to maneuver. Researchers from the University of New Mexico have been developing algorithms that allow robots to compensate for motion-induced swinging of suspended loads, and testing them out on real live quadrotors.

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Get Off the Couch and Exercise With Joggobot

Personally, I've never understood jogging. You dress in funny clothes, run in either a bunch of small circles or one big circle or in place on a treadmill until you exhaust yourself, and then end up back where you started all sweaty and gross. But, whatever. You can make nearly any activity 100 percent better by involving a robot, which is why this robotic jogging partner is such a good idea.

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Gibbot Training to Swing Like a Monkey

This purple little guy is the Gibbot, a robot designed by the Laboratory for Intelligent Mechanical Systems at Northwestern University to explore a particular type of locomotion that's been perfected by monkeys* to quickly and efficiently get around in trees.

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Quadrotors Turned Into Flying Wireless Battery Chargers

Cords are terrible, horrible things. Some of you may remember back to ancient times, when everything was corded and nobody was able to leave their houses. Ever. We've come a long way since then, what with wireless communication and batteries that don't totally suck, but really, batteries do still kind of almost totally suck.

Whenever you have anything that needs to survive away from the electrical grid for an extended period of time (whether it's a cellphone or a sensor), batteries are inevitably the limiting factor, and roboticists from the NIMBUS Lab at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln have solved the problem with a quadrotor that can fly around and wirelessly charge up electronics for you.

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IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, drones, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
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