Just to warn you, next week is going to be pretty crazy around here: it's RoboBusiness 2013, taking place in Santa Clara, Calif. We can promise you at least one major world debut at the show, and there are all kinds of other things going on, too: an expo, keynotes from industry and academia, and even some workshops and panels, including one being moderated by yours truly. If you happen to be at the show, make sure and stop by and randomly burst into cheers and applause. If you're not at the show, shame on you, and why haven't you moved to Silicon Valley already? Or turned yourself into a robot? And whether you're at the show or not, it's time to pre-game by pounding some Video Friday.
First up, this has been bugging me for a little while now, so I may as well vent. Look, I know it's easy to get excited about drone delivery services. In theory, it sounds amazing: robots dropping out of the sky to bring you tacos: yes. Or maybe now textbooks:
That would be great, if you're the sort of person who needs a text book in three minutes or less. But, I have to question whether it's even the least bit practical. At some point, I'll work up enough material to put together a nice long rant about the practicalities of autonomous aerial cargo delivery in urban areas, but I honestly think that any drone delivery service that you hear about right now is basically a publicity stunt (and a good one, it seems). We're at the point where it's not that hard to purchase a drone that can take off, navigate to GPS waypoints with respectable accuracy, and land, all autonomously. But doing this in an urban area that's full of buildings and wires and poles and pigeons and people would, I am guessing, very quickly become a disaster without a sensor payload that would suck up all of your useful range. Best case, you lose your drone. Worst case, you hurt someone. It may not be illegal (although it probably is, or soon will be), but it's almost certainly a bad idea, at least for now. I hate to be so pessimistic, but once you get past the "wow, cool" factor and start thinking about how this might actually work, it just seems impossible to me.
So go out and prove me wrong, guys!
Via [ TechCrunch ]
When we wrote about Aaron Becker's swarm robotics research last month, we mentioned that he'd set up some online games that you could play to help improve swarm control algorithms. If you had a go yourself, you'll recognize some of these scenarios, but it's especially cool to see them played out with swarms of real robots:
Here's a longer clip of the swarm moving and assembling objects. Remember, all of these individual robots are obeying the exact same "move towards the light" command:
[ Rice ]
Meanwhile, this video from a company called GENCO shows Baxter doing something practical:
[ Rethink Robotics ]
Is it just me, or is this body-less Zeno head excessively creepy?
[ Robokind ]
The last few Video Fridays, we've featured videos from Astrobotic showing their overhead cable robots that can deploy wheeled ground robots into craters and caves. Those vids were impressive, but unsurprisingly, it doesn't always go so well:
Hey, all you robot people out there: we love it when you post bloopers. Seriously, it's awesome.
[ Astrobotic ]
This is what happens when you have a girlfriend. And your girlfriend has a robot. And your girlfriend's robot sees you put your feet on a chair, and decides that you need to be taught some manners.
Also, interesting research, especially since the research looks like it resulted in Louise being able to take a rather expensive KUKA arm home to mess with in her living room. Gratz!
Via [ YouTube ]
The University of Maryland's RoboTerp is an amphibious robot that uses four adorable little legs to both walk and swim:
[ UMD Robotics ]
Team BlackSheep took their quadrotors and flying wings to Saigon and Singapore. Having been to Singapore, I can tell you that there's no better place to bring a flying robot, if you like dive-bombing bizarrely futuristic architecture:
[ Team BlackSheep ]
Here's one way of making indoor navigation significantly easier for robots: just put bar codes everywhere.
The DARPA Robotics Challenge in December is going to pit a horde of Atlas robots from the Track B and Track C teams against a variety of other robots from the Track A teams. Team DRC-Hubo might be feeling a little bit like an underdog, but they're not going to let that stop them:
[ Team DRC-Hubo ]
There's no better way to spend an hour than listening to UC Berkeley's Pieter Abbeel give a lecture on "Machine Learning and Optimization for Robotics," starting later today (or maybe not, depending on when you're reading this).
And if you can't wait for that lecture to start (or you missed it), here's one from Red Whittaker, highlighting "30 Years of the CMU Field Robotics Center."