We were pleasantly surprised by the number of robotics announcements at CES this year. In the past it's been a bit of a snoozefest, since robotics companies didn't want to tussle with all of the other major electronics manufacturers for coverage. However, in what is perhaps a small sign that robotics is becoming more mainstream, CES featured new products from the likes of iRobot, Parrot, Orbotix, and Suitable Tech.
But just because CES happened last week didn't mean that the rest of the robotics world came to a standstill, although we would definitely have appreciated that. So once again, we're here to get you caught up with Video Friday.
It's easy to start flying drones, but unless you start from scratch with a drone that comes with a sophisticated autopilot, you will crash, and it will be catastrophic and probably expensive. The guys from Game of Drones have a Kickstarter project that might minimize your pain a little bit, with a custom quadcopter airframe that may not be indestructible, but it's pretty darn close:
For $130 you get an airframe without any guts inside it; by the time you get it completely ready to fly you'll probably be looking at about $1,000. But, that's $1,000 that you'll only have to spend once, even if your drone gets a shotgun to the face.
[ Kickstarter ]
If you'd prefer to trade some durability for decreased cost and increased portability, another drone that's on Kickstarter right now is the Pocket Drone, an absurdly tiny GoPro-toting flier. What does absurdly tiny mean? How about this:
Just $500 gets you a completely ready-to-fly version of the Pocket Drone, including a six-channel radio, battery, and charger.
At this rate, it won't be long until everybody and their dog is going to be flying camera drones.
[ Kickstarter ]
It's always an exciting day around here when we're able to trace the evolution of a robotic whatsit from invention in a lab to release as a product. Empire Robotics is now selling that incredibly clever and awesome jamming gripper that was originally developed by researchers at Cornell University, University of Chicago, and iRobot under a DARPA contract. It uses coffee grounds inside a balloon hooked up to a vacuum pump to reliably pick up just about anything (read lots more about how it works here):
[ Empire Robotics ]
Robonaut 2's new legs are pretty cool, but as we see more video of what they can do, we're starting to wonder whether it's really appropriate to be calling them legs at all:
Really, these are an extra pair of arms or something, and as soon as the Robonaut up on the ISS gets outfitted with a pair, we're expecting to see all sorts of new manipulation and locomotion tricks.
[ Robonaut 2 ]
There's a new RoboCop movie coming out February 14th, so of course there's a bunch of new RoboCop-y teasers coming out, too:
More like "CyborgCop," I think.
[ RoboCop ]
Real robocops are just slightly less dramatic. Here's one that's designed to investigate drug smuggling tunnels along the border between the United States and Mexico.
"If we find a tunnel, we like to send a robot into clear the tunnel and identify any threats, contraband, potential people with weapons, and let the agent know ahead of time if the tunnel is structurally sound," said Border Patrol Agent Kevin Hecht, an agency tunnel expert."
And you'll be happy to know that these robots are bought and paid for through an asset forfeiture fund, meaning that (in some sense) they're actually paying for themselves.
Rethink Robotics' Baxter is getting cleverer thanks to rampant software upgrades, and here's a new montage showing all (or at least, some of) the different ways that it knows how to pack stuff:
[ Rethink Robotics ]
THIS IS THE FUTURE OF DRONES, PEOPLE:
CHOPPING VEGETABLES AND TAKING OUT THE TRASH!
JPL's RoboSimian was one of the more innovative designs to compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials last December, and this vid gives a good overview of some of its unique moves:
[ RoboSimian ]
Also at the DRC was a big expo area that we didn't spend a lot of time at (since we were busy watching the trials tasks), but you certainly don't want to miss this video of a "Collaborative Multi-Arm Robot Casualty Evacuation demonstration" from Intelligent Automation. It's worth it just to watch the control interface in action, especially at the end:
[ IAI ]
The PBS Newshour takes a look at why we don't all have robot servants yet. Nothing in here will surprise you, but some robotics celebrities do show up, which is always fun:
[ PBS ]
Our last thing isn't a video, so you can just lie back, shut your eyes, and think of robots as you listen to Daniel Lee (the director of UPenn's GRASP Lab) along with Katherine Kuchenbecker and Vijay Kumar talk about robotics. The first few minutes includes the quote "if Ben Franklin had been alive today, he'd be doing robotics." Heck yeah!
[iframe https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/129828997&color=1e4f78 allowfullscreen=false expand=1 height=166 width="100%"]
[ WHYY ]