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NASA Awards R5 Valkyrie Robots to MIT and Northeastern

At the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals this summer, we heard from NASA that they were preparing to send two Valkyrie robots to U.S. universities “for active research of high-level humanoid behaviors” through a competitive selection process. Yesterday, NASA announced the winners: Russ Tedrake’s lab at MIT, and a group led by Taskin Padir, who just moved to Northeastern University from WPI.

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Iran Demonstrates New Humanoid Robot Surena III

Iranian researchers at the University of Tehran unveiled yesterday the latest generation of their humanoid robot, named Surena III. In a demonstration, the adult-sized robot walked across a stage, imitated a person’s arm gestures, and stood on one foot while bending backwards.

Dr. Aghil Yousefi-Koma, a professor of mechanical engineering who leads the Surena project, tells IEEE Spectrum that the robot is designed as a research platform to explore bipedal locomotion, human-robot interaction, and other challenges in robotics. He also hopes Surena can help show the importance of engineering careers to students and the public, adding that he views the robot as a symbol of technology advancement “in the direction of peace and humanity.”

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Video Friday: Shape-Changing Interface, Robot Pro-Wrestling, and 3D-Printed Humanoid

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’re also going to start posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!):

SF Bay Area Robotics Group Meetup – November 18, 2015 – San Francisco, Calif., USA
ROBOT 2015 - Iberian Robotics Conference – November 19-21, 2015 – Lisbon, Portugal
Robotics Expo – November 20-22, 2015 – Moscow, Russia
100 Years of Robot Art and Science in the Bay Area – November 20, 2015 – San Francisco, Calif., USA
World Robotics Conference 2015 – November 23-25, 2015 – Beijing, China
Dronetech – November 26, 2015 – Bristol, U.K.
IREX 2015 – December 2-5, 2015 – Toyko, Japan
RoboUniverse Shanghai – December 8-10, 2015 – Shanghai, China
RoboUniverse San Diego – December 14-16, 2015 – San Diego, Calif., USA
ASU Rehabilitation Robotics Workshop – February 8-9, 2016 – Tempe, Arizona, USA
HRI 2016 – March 7-10, 2016 – Christchurch, New Zealand
WeRobot 2016 – April 1-2, 2016 – Miami, Fla., USA
National Robotics Week – April 2-10, 2016 – United States
Portugese Robotics Open – May 4-8, 2016 – Bragança, Portugal
Advanced Robotics Systems and Competitions – May 06, 2016 – Bragança, Portugal
Innorobo 2016 – May 24-26, 2016 – Paris, France

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

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Bosch's Giant Robot Can Punch Weeds to Death

At IROS last month, researchers from a Bosch startup called Deepfield Robotics presented a paper on “Vision-Based High-Speed Manipulation for Robotic Ultra-Precise Weed Control,” which has like four distinct exciting-sounding phrases in it. We wanted to write about it immediately, but Deepfield asked us to hold off a bit until their fancy new website went live, which it now has. This means that we can show you video of their enormous agricultural robot that can autonomously detect and physically obliterate individual weeds in a tenth of a second.

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Disney Software Makes It Easy to Design and Print Custom Walking Robots

For most hobbyists, building a robot mostly involves buying a robot and assembling it and then (if that first part doesn’t make you hate robots) programming it to do stuff. Designing your own robot from scratch is much more difficult, especially if it’s a robot that has legs that are supposed to do something practical. ETH Zurich, in collaboration with Disney Research and CMU, has developed “an interactive design system that allows casual users to quickly create 3D-printable robotic creatures.” From walking bipeds to salamanders with actuated spines to quintapeds (that’s a thing, right?), the software does all of the hard work for you, and with just a 3D printer and some servos, you can design robots that are exactly as bizarre as you want them to be.

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Video Friday: Breakfast Robot, Programmable Matter, and Exploding Ping Pong Balls

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’re also going to start posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

2015 Robot Film Fest – November 07, 2015 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA
Asian Robotics Week – November 12-13, 2015 – Singapore
AAAI Fall Symposia – November 12-14, 2015 – Arlington, Va., USA
SF Bay Area Robotics Group Meetup – November 18, 2015 – San Francisco, Calif., USA
ROBOT 2015 - Iberian Robotics Conference – November 19-21, 2015 – Lisbon, Portugal
Robotics Expo – November 20-22, 2015 – Moscow, Russia
World Robotics Conference 2015 – November 23-25, 2015 – Beijing, China
Dronetech – November 26, 2015 – Bristol, U.K.
IREX 2015 – December 2-5, 2015 – Toyko, Japan
RoboUniverse Shanghai – December 8-10, 2015 – Shanghai, China
RoboUniverse San Diego – December 14-16, 2015 – San Diego, Calif., USA

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos.

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Toyota Invests $1 Billion in AI and Robots, Will Open R&D Lab in Silicon Valley

Today in Tokyo, Toyota announced that it is investing US $1 billion over the next five years to establish a new R&D arm headquartered in Silicon Valley and focused on artificial intelligence and robotics. The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) plans to hire hundreds of engineers to staff a main facility in Palo Alto, Calif., near Stanford University, and a second facility located near MIT in Cambridge, Mass.

Former DARPA program manager Dr. Gill Pratt, an executive technical advisor at Toyota, was named CEO of TRI, which will begin operations in January. Toyota president Akio Toyoda said in a press conference that the company pursues innovation and new technologies “to make life better for our customers and society as a whole,” adding that he wanted to “work with Gill not just because he’s an amazing researcher and engineer, but because I believe his goals and motivations are the same as ours.”

We spoke to Dr. Pratt to find out what kinds of things TRI wants to work on, how they plan to transform pure research into practical applications, and where all that money is going.

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Watch This Massive Drone Launch and Recover Another Drone in Flight

We’ve written entire posts on how tricky it can be to recover a fixed-wing drone. Only the ridiculously large and expensive and over-engineered drones are able to land themselves (Predators, Global Hawks, things like that). Most other fixed-wing drones land themselves by crashing into the ground as gently as possible if they’re small and cheap, or maybe using a parachute if they’re slightly less small and cheap. Bigger fixed wing drones have to get more creative, especially if a precision landing is required (like recovery to a ship). Unmanned aircraft system developer Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary based in Bingen, Wash., has developed one of the most creative and awesome drone launch and recovery systems I’ve ever seen, using an enormous octocopter carrier aircraft.

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MIT Drone Flies Autonomously While Avoiding Obstacles

In just about every video featuring drones making aggressive maneuvers around obstacles there’s some amount of “cheating” going on. By that we mean the drones are typically relying on an external motion-capture system, as well as beefy offboard computers and a rock-solid wireless link. For doing research on aggressive maneuvers and other drone capabilities, it’s totally fine to “cheat” like that. But at some point you’ll want your drones to be able to fly anywhere and not just inside the controlled environment of a very expensive robotics lab.

With that goal in mind—and just US $1700 in hardware—MIT PhD student Andrew Barry has managed to fire a fixed-wing drone at some trees and not hit them, using only two cellphones worth of onboard computing hardware and real-time image processing.

Whoa.

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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

Editor
Erico Guizzo
New York City
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Washington, D.C.
 

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