Video Friday: One Moose, One Hundred Kilobots, and Robots Refueling Satellites

Thanks to a pair of Kilobot videos, this Video Friday likely contains more robots than ever before

2 min read
Video Friday: One Moose, One Hundred Kilobots, and Robots Refueling Satellites

Seeing a few cool new robots at CES was a great way to kick off 2013, but now we've got a bit of a lull until our next big events (like ICRA in Germany) start to hit in a few months. But that's okay: we'll have plenty of projects to keep us busy, one of which we should be able to tell you about next week! Until then, here's a swarm of robot vids to keep you entertained.

There have been lots of questions as to what Rethink's robot Baxter is actually capable of, you know, doing. Rethink put together this little montage of the robot setting up containers with a vacuum gripper, sorting parts, loading gears into partitioned boxes, re-orienting objects and packing boxes, and loading/unloading a conveyor.

[ Rethink ]



PancakeBot totally deserves to be at Maker Faire this year:

If you want to help send PancakeBot and the PancakeBot team to Maker Faire (certainly a good cause), you can toss them a couple bucks over on Indiegogo.

[ PancakeBot ] via [ EMS ]



Dextre is the largest member of a small family of robots up on the International Space Station. It's designed to work outside in space so that human astronauts don't have to risk it, and its latest trick is learning how to refuel satellites:

[ Dextre ]



What can you do with a hundred kilobots? Let's see, you can send them chasing after a light source:

Or, you can rig them up to harnesses for some reason and have them drag stuff around for you:

[ SSR ]



Seriously, how often do you see a wild moose checking out a domesticated quadrotor?

[ eirikso ] via [ BBG ]



I don't speak German, but I think I get the idea for this thing: it's a robot that runs with you, setting a pace and perhaps leading you along a route as well?

Hopefully it's also capable enough to give you a ride back home when you get tuckered out.



Thank you, Japan, for turning a humanoid robot into a hexacopter:

Via [ Robots Dreams ]



This anti-bird robot, which drives around and makes lound noises and shoots lasers, is basically what every little kid wants to drive when they grow up:

I have to wonder, though, if this robot passes the Minion Test. The Minion Test is my own personal criteria for judging the usefulness of a telepresence robot: namely, is the robot somehow better or more cost effective than having a minion carry around a laptop running Skype. This can be applied to just about any robot, not just telepresence, and I think in this case, having a person with a megaphone in a golf cart would likely be an equally effective, more reliable, and enormously cheaper method of airport bird control.

Via [ SciAm ]



Shadow Robot Company has taught their Shadow hand to do some impressive tricks with a business card:

[ SRC ]



Our last video for the week is a 10 minute update on what Robonaut 2's been up to aboard the ISS:

[ NASA ]

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

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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