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Linkbot: That Modular Robot You've Always Wanted Is Now on Kickstarter

Last month (I don't know how it can possibly be just last month but somehow it is) at Stanford's Robot Block Party, we talked to the guys over at Barobo, who gave us a peek at a modular educational robot system that they were getting ready to Kickstart. The project has now launched, meaning that the time to get a DIY modular robotics kit of your very own is right now.

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TurtleBot 2 Tutorial: Installing ROS

Due to ICRA (among other robot-y things), we had to take a bit of a break from our TurtleBot tutorials, but we're back this week to help get you going with Linux and ROS. The good news is, if you managed to survive the Ubuntu install, getting ROS installed is a cinch. The latest ROS version is called Groovy Galapagos (hence the hippie tortoise above). We'll help you through it, and provide some tips on using Linux, in the next installment of our tutorial. Groovy!

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Here's Microsoft's New Kinect Sensor

Yesterday, Microsoft held an event to announce its brand new Kinect sensor, and... Uh... Something else that we can't remember offhand, so it must not be that important. If you've hung around here long enough, you've probably noticed that Kinect sensors are on all kinds of robots nowadays, because they're inexpensive and pretty darn awesome. Plus, since so many people have them, there's a huge community that encourages ease of use.

But Kinect is nearly three years old, which is basically prehistoric in technological terms. It's time for something new, and better, and here it is.

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Robot Octopus Shows Off New Sculls

Octopi are pro swimmers, thanks (at least in part) to that octet of arms they've got going on. They've adopted a particular swimming gait called sculling, which works great for them, but until they start publishing scientific papers, we're missing out on all of their gait testing data. Roboticists have had to start from scratch, and along the way, they've experimented with some swimming gaits that we've never seen a real octopus try and pull off. 

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Video Friday: Droneapult Launch, Robot Rope Ascender, and Spock vs. Spock

These last couple weeks have been crammed full of more robots than humans like us can reasonably be expected to handle. So, you'll have to forgive us while we wade through massive amounts of incredibly extraordinarily SUPER COOL robot stuff, and you can expect several weeks worth of brand new stuff from ICRA and more. That's not happening today, though, because of course today is Video Friday!

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JPL BioSleeve Enables Precise Robot Control Through Hand and Arm Gestures

No matter how capable you make a robot, its effectiveness is limited by how well you can control it. And until we've got this whole general autonomy thing nailed down (better not hold your breath), that means a lot of teleoperation. JPL has been working on a new gesture-based human interface called BioSleeve, which uses a [insert collective noun for sensors here] of EMG sensors, IMUs, and magnetometers to decode hand and arm gestures and map them to an intuitive robot control system.

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Kuka Robot Competition Offers 20,000-Euro Award

German robotics giant Kuka announced last week a competition designed to advance mobile manipulation applications and promote the company's youBot as a platform for robotics research. The Kuka Innovation in Mobile Manipulation Award is open to researchers from around the world, who are invited to build a new and creative application in the field of mobile manipulation, with the only requisite being that a youBot be part of the system. And the prize? The winner takes all: €20,000 in cash.

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MIT Cheetah Robot Runs Fast, and Efficiently

The Cheetah robot developed at MIT's Biomimetic Robotics Lab first grabbed our attention when the project was announced back in 2009. In the years that followed few details emerged about its progress, until finally in July 2012 the lab posted videos of the robot walking on YouTube. Now, at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), the MIT team has shown its cheetah-inspired robot running at a respectable 22 km/h (13.7 mph). And more: the robot has an energy efficiency that rivals that of real running animals.

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

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