These Robots Want to Wish You Happy Holidays

And us humans from the Automaton blog, too

2 min read
These Robots Want to Wish You Happy Holidays
Vanguard MK2 robot at Applied Research Associates.
Photo: Thomas Peterson

Automaton has been blogging about robotics for over six years now. It's been an amazing journey, and every year that passes by we see robots getting better, faster, and more amazing. But 2013 wasn't just another year in the evolution of robotics; so much happened this year that we can say with certainty that 2013 was one of the best years for robots ever: We've seen tremendous activity in robotics starts-ups and VC funding; manufacturing robots have continued to diversify and advance as industrial automation enters a new era; robotics conferences saw record attendance and more and better work presented; big tech companies are paying close attention to robotics; and as the culmination of an already incredible year, the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials were a huge success, exceeding everyone's expectations.

But it's time to take a break. A very short break. We'll be back soon with our regular posting schedule. In the meantime enjoy these special robot holiday videos. And we wish a wonderful Christmas/Holidays/Festivus to all humans and robots out there!



What happens when quadruped robots, flying robots, ground robots, and even a ball-balancing robot decide to have a Christmas party? This is what happens.

Thanks Péter!

ETH Zurich's Autonomous Systems Lab ]



Nao wants to invite you to spend New Year's Eve with him. Join the little humanoid in this interactive YouTube video and find out where you and Nao will end up. 

[ Aldebaran Robotics ]



Reindeer is so 4th Century. Good thing Santa is testing new delivery technologies, including drones. And you thought Amazon was cutting edge?

[ Ascending Technologies ] via [ Robohub ]



As his elder elves go into retirement, Santa is considering using robots to improve productivity.

Thanks Armin!

University of Freiburg ]



Did anyone say robots and productivity? Baxter wants to help Santa, too.

Thanks Rod!

[ Rethink Robotics ]



Kirobo, Japan's space robot, wants to ask Santa for a present (fast forward to 2:02). Hope Santa can make that delivery.



And a final shout-out to IEEE member Thomas Peterson from Applied Research Associates, who kindly shared with us the photo at the top of the post. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Thomas and ARA colleagues!

The Conversation (0)

How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
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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