Video Friday: More Fake Ping Pong, Elastic Snakebots, and Watson Serves SXSW

Fake robot videos are impressive, but we're much more impressed with all the real ones we found this week

3 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

Video Friday: More Fake Ping Pong, Elastic Snakebots, and Watson Serves SXSW

Well, the whole Kuka thing was a bit of a letdown this week. Sigh. But the nice thing about having a ton of robot videos to post is that we can just get past that, right? Ordinarily, yeah, but we’re kind of obligated to start off with the other fake robot ping pong video. Double sigh.

The problem with videos like these about robots that seem real, that pretend to be real, but aren’t real, is that they make real robots look bad. It’s easy (relatively easy) to CGI up robots being awesome, and then people get used to robots being awesome. But then, when you have to explain to them that no, real robots aren’t quite that awesome, they can’t help but be disappointed.

Real robots are awesome though. Very awesome. And here are some videos of them that are 100 percent real.

Except for the first one.

First, let’s just get this out of the way: this robot playing ping pong video, which showed up just before the Kuka one, is fake fake fake fake fake:

Besides the fact that I’m highly skeptical that this is the kind of high-speed motion tracking that you can do in your garage with tiny little cameras, you’ll notice two things about this video: first, despite the mass of the robot zipping back and forth and changing direction quite quickly, the table doesn’t shake in the slightest, and the net doesn’t even vibrate. But the real giveaway is right at the beginning: if you pause it in the right places (there are several, one is right before 0:06), you’ll see pieces of the robot (usually its elbow) disappear and reappear. Yup, not real.

[ Ulf Hoffmann Robots ]

The next generation snakebot from CMU incorporates series elastic actuators into every joint. Appropriately enough, it’s called the SEA snake. The actuators allow for torque control and compliant motions, giving the snake a rather playful gravity compensation mode:

[ CMU Biorobotics ]

I guess this is what they do at Aldebaran Robotics all day:

Time. Well. Spent.

[ Aldebaran Robotics ]

If you’re going to try to advertise a drone as “indestructible,” this is exactly the sort of commercial you’d want to put together:

$140 for the indestructible airframe by itself; $625 for a version that’s ready to fly.

[ Game of Drones ]

The iRobot 710 Warrior is a seriously badass robot. I’m sorry, but when you can do all of these things, there’s really no other way to put it:

[ iRobot 710 ]

Anirudha Majumdar, Amir Ali Ahmadi, and Russ Tedrake have been working on a slightly different version of Acrobot, which uses a powered elbow joint instead of a powered shoulder joint to swing itself up to vertical:

[ MIT Robot Locomotion Group ]

Northwestern University’s Neuroscience and Robotics Lab (interesting mix, that) just got themselves a research Baxter, and they seem to like it:

[ Northwestern ]

You know how robots are supposed to be used for dull, dirty, or dangerous tasks? I can’t imagine it gets much more dangerous than this:

Volcano: Yasur, on Tanna Island in Vanuatu. Drone: DJI Phantom.

Via [ Gizmodo ]

The Morpheus robotic lander is destined for the moon one day, but before it gets sent there, it has a bunch of test flying to do. Here’s the latest flight; it’s completely autonomous, which is why it goes so perfectly:

[ NASA Project Morpheus ]

“We developed a prototype home version of the system based on the Quantified Snack Markup Language (QSML). This is an experiment from our labs focused on bringing 3D printing and robotic manufacturing of snacks directly to your kitchen.” Yes. Yes yes yes. A thousand times yes.

Via [ Gizmodo ]

This fall, CMU will be offering a Mobile Robot Programming class that you should totally sign up for:

[ CMU ]

An autonomous drone with a taser? Sure, but there’s more:

“While CUPID is programmed for fully-autonomous flight and weapons deployment, legal said we couldn’t stun the intern in front of 50 members of the media without manual piloting, along with a few other safety precautions.”

Also, “Phase 2” will include facial recognition, voice notification and commands, spotlights, and a wide variety of options for “less lethal ammo.”

Good times.

[ Chaotic Moon Studios ]

I’m hungry, so let’s end the week with a tasty wrap-up of some of the dishes that Watson came up with to serve to SXSW attendees:

[ IBM Cognitive Computing ]

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