Prepare Yourself: National Robotics Week Is Here

And check out the cool set of robot trading cards we created to celebrate

2 min read
Prepare Yourself: National Robotics Week Is Here

The fifth annual National Robotics Week event here in the U.S. will be held April 5-13, 2014. This is going to be the last time we remind you, we promise. It's an easy promise to make, because April 5 is like, tomorrow!

And this year we have something special for you: IEEE Spectrum teamed up with iRobot and Georgia Tech's Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines to create a cool set of robot trading cards (pictured above).

We modeled them after baseball cards, and each features a robot with "stats" and other info. Check out the 10 awesome robots we chose for this year's "team" (you can also download the set as a PDF and print all cards). If your favorite robot is not there, don't worry—we plan to make more cards next year.

And for even more robots (158, to be exact), don't forget about IEEE Spectrum's award-winning, internationally acclaimed Robots for iPad app, which you can get for FREE on iTunes.

National Robotics Week 2014 promises to be a blast, so get involved! Here are some highlights for this year, hot off the press release:

  • Robot Zoo, Cambridge, MA (April 19) – At this action-packed event, explore amazing robotics technology, demonstrations and activities from organizations throughout Massachusetts, the United States, and the World.
  • Xconomy Forum: Robo Madness 2014, Menlo Park, CA (April 10) – At Xconomy's third annual robotics forum—hosted by SRI International during National Robotics Week—industry experts will grapple with the social, economic, and entrepreneurial questions arising as the robotics revolution hits home. Among the impressive lineup of speakers is Paolo Pirjanian, chief technology officer at iRobot.
  • Silicon Valley Robot Block Party, Palo Alto, CA (April 9) – Hosted by Silicon Valley Robotics, see the most advanced robotics research in Silicon Valley, the hottest robot startups, the coolest robot companies and all the just plain fun robots you can imagine.
  • MSI Robot Block Party, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL (April 5-13) – The robots are coming (and they're here to help)! To celebrate National Robotics Week 2014, MSI will be demonstrating several different kinds of robots from the U.S. and around the world, offering lectures from some of the top university robotics scholars and presenting special workshops and hands-on activities.
  • Robotics Expo at the Smithsonian, Washington, DC (April 4-5) – The museum exhibits a number of robotics milestones, such as DARPA’s ARM robot, Robonaut 1, the MER Mars Rover model, and the Google Car, among many others. During this official National Robotics Week event, teams will demonstrate the projects they have created. Students from the Infamous Robotics Inventors Club will be demonstrating the robot they invented and designed.

Evan will be at both of those California events, and if you're there too, come say hi. Meanwhile, if you don't leave near any of these events, consider moving, and take a look at the other 220-odd events taking place across all 50 states.

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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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