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Nao Robots Dance the Macarena Better Than You

A trio of humanoids shows off their dance skills

1 min read

Nao, the little French humanoid whose software just became open source, is always learning new tricks. We've seen it showing off Michael Jackson moves, doing Star Wars impressions, and performing an 8-minute synchronized dance choreography. Now a trio of Nao robots is busting out some Latin dance moves with a Macarena performance that makes the uncoordinated among us more humiliated than ever now that even machines dance better than us.

The routine was created as part of a computer science course taught by Rudolf Jaksa and Maria Vircikova from the Center for Intelligent Technologies at the Technical University of Kosice, in Slovakia. Their students programmed Nao robots to perform a variety of dances (if you have a Nao, you can download the Choregraphe source files here). One of the students, Boris Raus, from Croatia, created the Macarena routine. "Programming the robots to dance," Vircikova says, "is an entertaining way for students to learn and implement algorithms that explore aesthetic motion, human-robot interaction, and creativity."

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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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