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Video Friday: Humanoid Waltz, Robot Sumo, and Happy Holidays!
Image: ETH Zurich Autonomous Systems Lab

Happy Holidays from all of us at IEEE Spectrum! Whether you choose to celebrate Robanzaa/KwanzaaRobonnukah/Hannukah, Xmas/Christmas, or any other robot/human holiday, we trust that your next few weeks will be filled with cheer, merriment, some amount of indulgence, and (if you’re good) maybe even some gifts

We may be taking a day or two off here and there over the next few weeks, but we’ll be back in force for the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January. Usually, robots don’t headline at CES, so we’re not expecting anything big, but most of the time there are at least one or two worthwhile surprises.

Anyway, we’re not the only ones excited for the holidays, and we’ll start off Video Friday with some particularly festive robots.

This is no surprise: ETH Zurich’s Autonomous Systems Lab has another absolutely epic Christmas Video. I think this is now definitely an annual tradition:

[ ASL ]

Thanks Péter!

You may have spotted a few Thymios in that video, but here’s a dedicated little tribute:

[ Thymio ]

Some serious skill, from ArtiMinds Robotics:

[ ArtiMinds ] via [ RoboHub ]

I mean, we would have been more impressed with real robots, but here’s something from Yaskawa Motoman nontheless:

[ Motoman ]

This is what we like to see: real robots, and even some real autonomy. And candy!

[ CITEC Neuroinformatics ]

Had enough holiday vids? Great! Becuase now, this:

[ Dr. Guero ]

We’ve always liked robots that are able to physically express themselves with minimal degrees of freedom. Here's some of the thinking that went into making Jibo good at it:

[ Jibo ]

The hybrid VTOL flying wing drone design that we first saw from KU Leuven is getting popular, and you can pledge for a solid looking design now on Kickstarter for $600:

[ X PlusOne ] via [ DIY Drones ]

Here is a slightly larger drone doing drone things on a boat:

[ Fire Scout ]

I can’t tell if this is really cool, a really huge mess, or some combination of both:

[ Ollie ]

A masterful display of midair pathing that for some reason totally creeps me out:

[ OC Robotics ]

As a general principle, robots are way more fun to watch when there are no humans involved:

[ Robots Dreams ]

Open house at PAL Robotics in Barcelona:

[ PAL Robotics ]

Here’s something cute to end on a non-holiday note. Summer Glau stars in a web series and accompanying mockumentary about what it’s like to work in Hollywood with a robot named Jeff:

Several more episodes are available on Wired’s YouTube channel here.

Via [ BBG ]

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How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
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

“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.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

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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