Video Friday: Dancing Robots and Rampant Stupidity

Whether it's disco dancing, traditional Japanese music, or near total uselessness, we've got robots doing it on video

1 min read
Video Friday: Dancing Robots and Rampant Stupidity

As often happens, it's Thursday night and I've got a slew jumble heap carefully selected assortment of robot videos that have shown up this week and I figured it would be a good idea to toss smush pile carefully present them in a post for Friday that you can enjoy without having to listen to me drone on about, you know, drones. Or whatever.

In the realm of dancing robots, researchers seem to pick the weirdest tunes to show off their latest programming tricks. I could delve into why I think that might be, but out of respect for the personal lives of all of these people who have clearly not been out of the lab since the mid-1970s, I'll keep quiet and just let you enjoy HDT Robotics' HDM robot dancing to some disco:

If that thing had a pelvis, it would be going crazy.

An entirely different (and more mature) style altogether is demonstrated by Azusa Amino's Toko Toko Maru robot, which took first place in the Robo Japan 2 Dance Contest on Sunday. Robot-Dreams brings the video:

And finally, we come to the rampant stupidity, and boy is it rampant. But that's the way we want it, because in October is another Bacarobo competition, where the stupidest, most useless robot wins a huge wad of cash. It's sort of like the Antimov Competition, except with more uselessness and less flaming death. Here's a video of some highlights from last year, which you'll enjoy slightly more if you can speak Hungarian:

Bacarobo 2011 takes place October 30 in Budapest.

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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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