This is your final warning: National Robotics Week in the United States is coming up fast, starting next Saturday. Why are we giving you a warning? Ever since the U.S. House of Representatives passed resolution H.Res. 1055, officially designating the second full week in April as National Robotics Week, anyone who doesn't celebrate said week will heretoforethereby be hung, drawn, quartered, burned at the stake, thrown into a pond, fined, jailed, and given a stern talking to reminding them how great robots are and how it's their moral, ethical, and patriotic duty to celebrate robots in all of their glory.
Now that you've been made aware of the consequences, if you live in the U.S., it's time to find your nearest NRW event (there's 200 of them, covering all 50 states) and start rearranging your life so that you can get there and participate. And if planning your life around robotics sounds crazy to you, then, well, you're probably reading the wrong blog, because it's what we do every Thursday night to make sure that you have a tasty stack of videos waiting for you on Friday.
NASA held a Robot Rocket Rally at Kennedy Space Center, which, among other things, let kids get up close and personal with Robonaut and his wiggly new legs:
[ NASA KSC ]
A robotic sprinkler that only waters the specific plants that you need it to, and only when they need water? How have we not had this thing years ago?
What's especially interesting is how you could integrate a sprinkler like this with all sorts of sensors to make it much more intelligent. Like, connect it to soil moisture sensors to give plants exactly what they need. Or if you want to get crazy, maybe hook it up to an infrared camera to see plants starting to turn brown before it becomes visible to the naked eye. The $300 pricetag (on pre-order) is certainly a bit spendy, but it's a fantastic idea, and might even be worth the premium.
[ Droplet ] via [ TechCrunch ]
The Glaucus is a quadruped robot (of sorts) that's unique for a few reasons. It doesn't have any actuators, but instead relies on coordinated inflating and deflating of air muscles for locomotion, resulting in a boneless, completely soft-bodied robot. Also, you can 3D print molds and then cast the robot completely out of silicon, no assembly required:
Via [ Adafruit ]
The TU Delft Cyber Zoo is a brand new lab for flying and crawling robots that features a Mars landscape for testing robot explorers:
[ TU Delft ]
Even if Kuka robots are completely clueless at ping pong, it's hard to deny that they know what they're doing in industrial environments:
[ Kuka ]
Fotokite, a drone on a tether that you pull behind you like a balloon as it captures what you're doing on video, looks like it actually kind of works, at least for sledding:
[ Fotokite ]
Yujin Robotics' Waiterbot 2 solves the drink-fetching problem of how to actually put the right drink on the robot by partnering with a base station that can deploy different kinds of beverages directly onto the robot:
[ Yujin ]
HDT's Adroit arms have excellent strength and range of motion, but at this video shows, you probably don't want to give one a hammer if you're standing right next to it, because it'll barely wait for you to get out of the way before smashing whatever's in range:
[ HDT ]
Jeff Darwin gets a bike! And rides it without falling off! Hooray!
Georgia Tech's GRITS Lab is experimenting with how to use a small swarm of robots to best observe some interesting stuff (a spot of light, in this case) if said stuff keeps moving around:
[ Georgia Tech ]
What can a TurtleBot do? Nothing! Everything! Whatever you can program it to do! Students at Cornell taught theirs to solve a maze very, very slowly.
Good composure while under attack.
[ Maze Solver 2000 ]
This robotic head (from the same people who make Robothespian) is like a fancy telephone that can display someone's face as they're talking to you. Or, it can act as your personal assistant. I totally get that having something physical and expressive to interact with can be more effective than just sitting in front of your computer, but at the same time, I'm really not sure that I want this in my house:
[ SociBot ] via [ New Scientist ]
Team Blacksheep continues their tour of Hong Kong as a preview for ICRA 2014:
[ Team Blacksheep ]
Time to finish things up with a blast from the past. The 1990s was two decades ago, and I barely remember any of it, but that doesn't mean that important things weren't happening in robotics. UPenn's GRASP Lab was going like bananas, and this video highlights some of the important robotics research that was getting done:
[ GRASP Lab ]
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.