Video: Throwable Robot, Roomba-Riding Humanoid, and More from ICRA 2012

Don't miss our video montage featuring the coolest robots of the 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation

1 min read
Video: Throwable Robot, Roomba-Riding Humanoid, and More from ICRA 2012

DARPA Arm Robot at ICRA 2012

If you couldn't make it to ICRA this year, don't worry: We'll bring ICRA to you. The 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation attracted more than 1,700 people to the River Centre convention center in St. Paul, Minn., last week. We've been keeping you informed about the coolest (and the weirdest) projects presented at the conference, and we still have many more stories to come. But today we want to take you to ICRA's show floor, where over two dozen exhibitors demoed their robotic creations. Check out our video montage after the break. 

The robots at the exhibit hall included the DARPA ARM (the robot pictured above), NASA's Robonaut2, Willow Garage's PR2, Intuitive Surgical's Da Vinci, and the Scout, from ReconRobotics, which is based in Edina, Minn., and brought a makeshift Afghanistan village to the show floor. Though we've seen all of these bots before, we've learned some new things about each of them. Watch:

Photo: Evan Ackerman. Video: Erico Guizzo & Evan Ackerman/IEEE Spectrum; special thanks to Bruno Palazzo for the soundtrack.

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Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
LightGreen

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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