The June 2024 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Video Friday: Quadrotor Tour Guides, Laser Hexapods, and Robots vs. Gymnasts

This week's Video Friday offers conclusive proof that everything works better with more lasers

3 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

Video Friday: Quadrotor Tour Guides, Laser Hexapods, and Robots vs. Gymnasts

What is it about lasers that makes anything to bolt them on to like ten thousand times cooler, even if they don’t actually do anything? Maybe it’s the fact that even though lasers have been around for half a century, they’re still one of the most inherently futuristic things I can think of. And it’s amazing that you can buy them for next to nothing on eBay. We can only hope that 50 years from now, the same thing will happen to robots: futuristic awesomeness for cheap. While we wait, let’s watch some videos.

Skycall is a project from MIT’s Senseable City Lab that explores “novel, positive uses of UAV technology in the urban context.” It’s also a tool to help clueless freshmen find their way around the MIT campus.

The quadcopter itself utilities onboard autopilot and GPS navigation systems with sonar sensors and WiFi connectivity (via a ground station), enabling it to fly autonomously and communicate with the user via the SkyCall app. The UAV also integrates an onboard camera as both an information gathering system (relaying images to a ‘base’ location upon encountering the user), as well as a manually-controlled camera, accessible to the visitor-come-tourist again via the SkyCall app.

Like most conceptual videos, reality is rather far from what’s portrayed here, most notably when it comes to the autonomous indoor navigation. But, it might be feasible to have this thing leading students around campus outdoors, as long as they’re willing to move at a speed that’s compatible with the robot’s battery life, and also willing to call campus police when a hapless Frisbee player gets accidentally decapitated.

Also, that is an alarmingly sultry voice for a quadcopter.

[ Skycall ]

Tokyo is the site for the 2020 Olympics, and to celebrate, that gymnast robot is ready to show off a new trick:

Someone just give this guy a freakin’ gold medal already.

[ YouTube ]

Here’s the 2013-2014 FIRST robotics challenge game format. As with most FIRST competitions, it’s more than slightly complicated:


Watch Parrot’s AR Drone take on Louis Smith, an Olympic gymnast, in a contest of skill and wit. But mostly skill.

Whether or not you think the human one on this one, the AR Drone is really an amazing robot, especially considering how much it costs. Just the simple fact that you can take your hands off of the controls and it will sit there completely stationary is absurdly impressive.

Also, if you let your little brother fly it up to 10 meters and then he says “what’s the emergency button do” while pressing it and the drone shuts off and plummets straight down onto concrete, nothing will break.

[ AR Drone ]

Anki latest video doesn’t really say much about Anki Drive in terms of technical detail, but I do like this little factoid:

“If you scaled an Anki Drive car to the real world size of a standard car, it would be the equivalent of driving down U.S. Highway 101 at 250 mph with a concrete wall only a tenth of an inch from either side mirror.”

[ Anki ]

Team Blacksheep takes us to Angkor Wat, the largest religious complex in the world:

[ Team Blacksheep ]

This robot spider-thing may not look like much, but skip ahead to 2:10 in the video and watch what happens at night when you take long-exposure pictures of it:

Via [ Wired ]

After one too many Tacocopter deliveries, it might be time to call in Defikopter, which can paradrop a defibrillator to GPS coordinates within ten kilometers in under ten minutes.

[ Defikopter ]

Looks like Mercedes is also working on a non-robot-looking robot car:

Via [ Robocars ]

Today in terrible ideas, let’s give hexapods a whole bunch of frikkin’ lasers:

You can try to run, but it’s got more legs than you do.

Via [ Trossen ]

Engadget talked to iRobot co-founder and CEO Colin Angle at IFA, and there’s a great interview of him talking about (among other things) the promises and challenges of having humanoid robots in the home anytime soon:

Via [ Engadget ]

Missed Burning Man this year? Yeah, me too, and it had nothing to do with the fact that as a blogger I find sustained outdoor experiences terrifying. I’d like to think that this drone-powered view is just as good as being their, if not slightly better:

[ YouTube ]

The Conversation (0)