Prepare Yourself: National Robotics Week Is Next Week!

It's National Robotics Week next week in the United States, so find a way to celebrate with ROBOTS!

2 min read
Prepare Yourself: National Robotics Week Is Next Week!

Hey! You there! What are your plans for National Robotics Week? It's an officially nationally recognized event in the United States, which I'm reasonably sure means that if you don't celebrate it, you get arrested or made fun of or something. To make sure this doesn't happen, there are a huge number of events all over the country, and you should find one near you to go check out.

(By the way, there are similar celebrations in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. We'll try to keep you posted about those as well. Send us an email if you're participating or organizing a "national robotics week" or events like that in other countries.)

There are lots of events going on this year. Just look! This is the fourth edition of National Robotics Week, and the organizers say it's going to be even bigger than before, with robot events in all 50 states.

Click here for the actual map telling you what all of these events are.

Just in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, we've got the Stanford Drone Games, WeRobot 2013, an awesome Robot Block Party, and a forum hosted by Xconomy featuring Rodney Brooks, Colin Angle, Chris Anderson, and a whole bunch of other amazing people. And there's even more going on! Like, for example:

Yes, it's back, the world's largest robot competition, with 50 different robotics events. It takes place in San Mateo, Calif., from Apr 19-21, and you can buy tickets right here.

Now, if you don't live out here in California, there's no reason to panic: hopefully, you can find something robot-y to do somewhere in your area, and if not, there are many other ways to celebrate the week. Build a robot, program a robot, read about robots, write about robots... Robots are the future, and while around here we celebrate them every single day, National Robotics Week is a fantastic excuse to get involved on your own, too.

[ National Robotics Week ]

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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

“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.

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

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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