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Video Friday: Curiosity Learns to Scoop, Robot Tentacle Learns to Grab, iCub Learns About Rolling

It's a learning-filled Video Friday filled with learning, and videos, and robots

2 min read
Video Friday: Curiosity Learns to Scoop, Robot Tentacle Learns to Grab, iCub Learns About Rolling

Nope, we are still not done with our coverage of ICRA, the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, but we'll take a little bit of a break today to bring you a comprehensive Video Friday, featuring robots learning to do things like humans, and humans learning to do things with robots.

NASA's Curiosity rover still has a couple months of cruise time to Mars, but back here on Earth, its stunt double is working  hard at sample collection practice. The vid gives you a great sense of scale: this is one very big, very complicated robot:


iCub is intended to learn like children do, and that involves a lot of experimentation. Here, iCub is learning about rolling: some things roll, some things don't, and some things like to roll in some directions but not others. Through trial and error, iCub gradually figures this out. Good job!


Another robot that's trying to teach itself things is this Festo bionic handling assistant at the Research Institute for Cognition and Robotics (CoR-Lab) at Bielefeld University, in Germany. By "goal babbling" (a technique based on infant learning), the robotic tentacle figures out how to move in the right way to grab objects.

[ Paper ]


Robots aren't the only ones learning things this week. At MIT, students built and programmed autonomous robots to navigate a maze, collect blocks, and then use the blocks to build a structure. This was the final challenge for MIT's robotics course and it looks like it was probably a huge amount of fun.


The winner of Microsoft's Robotics@Home competition (announced over the weekend at Maker Faire) was Smart Tripod, a robotic  cameraman camerabot that uses a Kinect sensor to track people (and detect gesture commands) as they make their own videos. It works great, and I totally need one.

[ Microsoft ] via [ Engadget ]


Clean solar panels can increase power generation (and revenue or savings) by up to 7 percent. Cleaning solar panels is dull. Robots are okay with dull. Here's a solar panel cleaning robot from Greenbotics that will save you money, it's that simple:

[ Greenbotics ] via [ Treehugger ]


We've taken to occasionally wrapping up Video Fridays with some long academic vids for you hardcore types who've made it this far, and this week, we've got the opening remarks and keynote address from ROSCon 2012, posted courtesy of Willow Garage. The featured speaker is Morgan Quigley, one of the early architects of ROS, and he's talking about the past, present, and future of ROS.

Part two is here.

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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