Video Friday: Self-Parking Car, Curiosity Scoop, and Robot Circus

Nissan shows off a car that drives and parks itself, NASA engineers prepare Curiosity for its first scoop of Martian soil, and artists build a strange robotic circus

3 min read

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum’s digital innovation director.

Video Friday: Self-Parking Car, Curiosity Scoop, and Robot Circus

In this edition of Video Friday, we bring you robot cars, robot radar, robot circus, and more!

At CEATEC this week in Tokyo, Nissan is showing off its NSC-2015 self-driving prototype car. This Nissan Leaf might still need more improvements until it can fully drive itself in real traffic, but the robot car can already do something that some people will say it's even better than autonomous driving: You can leave the car at the entrance of a parking lot and it will go in, find a spot, and park itself. And when you come back later, you just tap some buttons on your smartphone and the car will come find you. People living in places with limited parking (hello Park Slope!) would certainly love this capability! Watch a demo of the car driving autonomously in a simulated shopping mall parking lot.

Via [ DigInfo ]


It's been two months since NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars. Not surprisingly, the rover has been quite busy during this period. This week the JPL engineers started preparing their robot for a new task: the first scoop of Martian soil! The engineers are programming Curiosity to collect a sample of soil using its robotic arm and then place the sample into one of its science instruments, housed within the rover's body. Watch to see how the robot geologist will carry out this task:

Via [ NASA JPL ]


Remember iRobot's FirstLook, that tough little robot that you can throw through windows to spy inside buildings and investigate confined spaces? iRobot has a new video showing the robot in various situations. FirstLook has some new capabilities, including two-way voice communication ("put the gun down!") and an optional wide-angle camera mounted on a short pole. But the coolest new feature is the ability to carry and drop off small payloads, such as a brick of C-4 (to detonate other explosives, presumably). WANT!

Via [ iRobot ]


Robot sensors, including Kinect and LIDAR, are getting better and cheaper. Now a group of Norwegian engineers are taking radar technology to the next level by allowing it to "see" objects behind walls. The group has created Dipper, a small, affordable ultra-wideband (UWB) radar that can be used in robots and other applications. They've recently made their project open source and launched a funding campaign on IndieGoGo. Check out the vid below and support the project if you like it.

Via [ Dipper ]

Thanks Oyvind!


In our Rethink Robotics feature article last month, we mention a Dannish company that is commercializing an impressive robot arm designed for manufacturing applications. Universal Robots, based in Odense, Denmark, offers the UR-5 and UR-10 arms, which are affordable, light, safe, quiet, and easy to program. Now the company is bringing its robots to the United States. They're showing them off at trade shows and have already some clients lined up. The video below is not very new, but show how the robots are used in a wide variety of industries:

Via [ Universal Robots ]

Thanks Mette!


Another item from Japan. This week NTT Docomo demonstrated a smartphone application that transforms the NEC Papero robot into a robot personal assistant. The robot can inform you about the weather or main attractions at a certain location and it can also send that information to your smartphone. The human-robot interaction is still a bit clunky, but I'd expect to see this kind of robotic assistant become popular in the near future. What do you think?

Via [ Japan Times ]


Here's another cool, open source project that might use your help. Want to control your robot with your brain activity? The eSharp project is an easy-to-use toolkit for developing brain control interface apps for the Emotiv EEG headset. The video below focuses on non-robotic applications, but its creators have demonstrated how the same technology can be used to teleoperate robots, for example. The project is now trying to raise funds to port the toolkit from Delphi to Visual C#. Check out the project's page for more information.

Via [ eSharp ]


Artist and builder Patrick Gleeson writes in to say he's creating a "robot circus" project. Here's how he describes it: "In a junk-punk, post-apocalyptic future an incorrigible showman and a boy genius build robotic animals from trash and make them the stars of a travelling circus. That is the premise of a new animatronics/puppetry-based live show I’m developing." To showcase the concept, he created a short film featuring this strange "geek/robot/puppetry/theatre/scifi/junk-punk/music/animatronic/circus" world he and his collaborators are creating.

Via [ Electric Animal Circus ]

Thanks Patrick!

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