Quadrotors Play Bond Theme, Are Clearly Working for Evil Masterminds

We'll tell you all about it, just as soon as we get you nice and comfortable in this unnecessarily complicated death trap

1 min read
Quadrotors Play Bond Theme, Are Clearly Working for Evil Masterminds

We'd always had an inkling that those cackling one-eyed cat lovers over at University of Pennsylvania's GRASP Lab were nefarious geniuses bent on world domination, and now we have proof.

Yes, that's the James Bond theme played by a swarm of nanoquads. This video premiered during the 2012 TED Conference, where Vijay Kumar (pictured above with one of the robots) was invited to give a talk. Those of us who were unlucky enough not to be invited to TED will have to wait for the video of the talk to be posted online, but you can at least feel a little bit smug that as a faithful reader of IEEE Spectrum, you're already very familiar with all the very cool stuff that the GRASP Lab has been doing with their quadrotors.

We should also mention that this isn't the first time that quadrotors have played the piano, although the harp-thing and the guitar are new (and quite clever). In December of 2010, a quadrotor named Echo from the Flying Machine Arena at ETH Zurich played jingle bells for the holidays all by herself. You can watch that performance below, and make sure you stick around until the very end of the video:


[ TED ] via [ UPenn ]

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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

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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