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$20 Robot From MIT Wins AFRON Design Challenge

Robots, as anyone who has ever attempted to build or buy or fix a robot knows, tend to be expensive. This presents a problem for people who want to start learning about robotics, because getting a foot in the door with an actual robot to work on generally involves a substantial up-front investment in hardware. And for places where teachers and students don't have huge piles of money to throw at technology, this can mean that robots just don't happen.

The African Robotics Network (AFRON) and IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS) collectively sponsor a biennial design challenge to "collaboratively create an educational robot that is an order of magnitude less expensive than existing products, to inspire young people around the world." For 2013/2014, MIT took home a win with their MIT SEG robot, a 3D-printed, Arduino-based wheeled robot that can be built for $20 in five steps with no training or tools.

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Video Friday: Squishy Quadrupeds, Fotokite Drone, and Robots From the 1990s

This is your final warning: National Robotics Week in the United States is coming up fast, starting next Saturday. Why are we giving you a warning? Ever since the U.S. House of Representatives passed resolution H.Res. 1055, officially designating the second full week in April as National Robotics Week, anyone who doesn't celebrate said week will heretoforethereby be hung, drawn, quartered, burned at the stake, thrown into a pond, fined, jailed, and given a stern talking to reminding them how great robots are and how it's their moral, ethical, and patriotic duty to celebrate robots in all of their glory.

Now that you've been made aware of the consequences, if you live in the U.S., it's time to find your nearest NRW event (there's 200 of them, covering all 50 states) and start rearranging your life so that you can get there and participate. And if planning your life around robotics sounds crazy to you, then, well, you're probably reading the wrong blog, because it's what we do every Thursday night to make sure that you have a tasty stack of videos waiting for you on Friday.

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Robotic Clams and Horseshoe Crabs Take on Surf, Sand, and Mud

It's always a little weird when we see a completely novel sort of robot, like a robotic clam, and then in the same week, we see another completely novel sort of robot, like a robotic horseshoe crab, that is somehow closely related: in this case, they're both bioinspired aquatic robots, a very specific category. I mean, that sort of coincidence is weird, right? But it happened. So let's meet these things.

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Cybathalon 2016: A Competition for Augmented Humans

human os iconThe Olympic Games are a competition for the fittest and most talented able-bodied humans on Earth. The Paralympic Games are a competition for the fittest and most talented humans on Earth with physical and intellectual disabilities. To compete, paralympians take advantage of assistive systems, some of which are becoming increasingly cybernetic, combining traditional prosthetics with robotics. ETH Zurich and the Swiss National Competence Center of Research in Robotics have an idea of where we can take this.

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SCHAFT Staying in DARPA Robotics Challenge, More Teams Joining DRC Finals

After the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials ended last December and Team SCHAFT emerged victorious, there was a rumor going around that Google, which had acquired SCHAFT just months earlier, wasn't going to allow the team to remain in the competition. Some observers speculated that Google was apparently reluctant to accept funding from DARPA and establish ties with the U.S. military (DARPA is an agency of the Department of Defense). Today, DARPA announced that, contrary to the rumor, SCHAFT is staying in the DRC.

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Video Friday: Morphing Hexapod, Swarming Roboroaches, and Suitable Snowden

According to my (mind-bendingly sophisticated) calculations, in just two weeks from now, it'll officially be National Robotics Week in the United States. I'm mentioning this now because I'm assuming that you're very busy and important, and that you'll need that much lead time to make it to all of the activities. All of them. Road trip!

To get you pumped up, here's the week's worth of robot vids.

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New BeetleCam Adds Video, Gyros for More Death-Defying Animal Spying

Robots that tackle the third "D" of things that robots are good at (that would be, Dangerous, as opposed to Dull or Dirty) are best known for dealing with things like bombs. Or radiation. In other words, they're sent after things that a human would ordinarily have to deal with if we didn't have robots. There is a separate category of dangerous, though, that consists of things that humans don't have to deal with, and don't want to deal with, because they're absolutely nuts. Like, getting within a few feet of a wild leopard or a lion with a camera and saying "meat!"

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DARPA's Newest X-Plane Concepts Are All Robots

Yesterday, DARPA announced the four companies that'll be competing to develop a new experimental aircraft that combines the efficiency of an airplane with the versatility of a helicopter. It'll be something like a V-22 Osprey, except that DARPA is hoping for "radical improvements in vertical and cruise flight capabilities." Three of the companies provided concept art to DARPA; Boeing's Phantom Swift is pictured above. And the thing that every proposal has in common? They're all robots.

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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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