Video Friday: Self-Racing Cars, Robot Grumpy Cat, and Where's Keepon?

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

4 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum’s digital innovation director.

Keepon dancing robot
We miss this guy!
Photo: BeatBots

On a Friday morning nine (!) years ago, I published a post with just one video and one line of text on, the robotics blog I ran at the time before joining IEEE Spectrum. That was the beginning of Video Friday. 

As more and more robot video content started showing up over the years, Video Friday turned into a way to keep you updated on everything that happened all week in one efficient (and hopefully entertaining) post.

At one point Video Friday grew to include something like 30 videos (if we’ve crashed your browser, we’re very sorry!). We’ve now toned it down to around 20 videos by being slightly more selective. But we’d love some feedback on how many videos you’d like to see every week.

So, if you wouldn’t mind helping us out with this tiny little poll, we’d really appreciate it.

Definitely let us know if you have other suggestions for how we could make Video Friday better for you, either in the comments below or more directly via email or Twitter.

Also, a special shout-out to everyone who started reading on and is still reading on here. Thanks for sticking with me. Just for fun, we’ll start off Video Friday today with five videos from some very early (2007-2009) Video Friday posts. Enjoy!

Keepon meets Daniel H. Wilson (2008)

Where are they now:Daniel H. Wilson is a bestselling author, and his novel Robopocalypse is (maybe) being made into a movie directed by Steven Spielberg. Keepon’s creator at CMU, Marek Michalowski, is now at X, and as for his little yellow robot, we don’t know exactly what it’s up to but we hope that it’ll keep on dancing.

[ BeatBots ]

PR2 prototype demo at Willow Garage (2008)

Where are they now: Willow Garage transitioned into a bunch of spinoffs, and Clearpath Robotics took over PR2 support. PR2s are still widely used in research. Vijay Pradeep is at Google working on Project Tango and VR, and Melonee Wise is the CEO of Fetch Robotics.

[ Willow Garage ]

iRobot’s bionic hamster (2009)

Where are they now: I’m not sure who exactly was behind the Bionic Hamster, but it was part of an internal contest at iRobot involving their Create platform. iRobot is still around, of course, and the iRobot Create 2 was announced in December of 2014. The hamster joined a band.

[ iRobot Create ]

RoboPult: A fireball-throwing robot catapult (2008)

Where are they now: I think this was a publicity stunt for energy drinks that look like health and mana potions, sold by a California company called Harcos Labs, which is still around (they also sell edible dried zombie skin, if you’re interested).

[ Harcos Labs ]

SwarmBots pulling a child (2007)

Where are they now: SwarmBots were designed by Dr. Francesco Mondada, who’s still working on swarm robotics at EPFL. The SwarmBots themselves turned into the Swarmanoids project. The child was never seen again.

[ EPFL ]

And now back to our regularly scheduled Video Friday.

This is a video from June, but it shows some footage from the world’s first Autonomous Track Day, where a bunch of autonomous car companies brought their vehicles up to a racetrack north of San Francisco to play:

[ Self Racing Cars ]

Disney will be using drone swarms to put on light shows in its parks, and here’s a preview:

[ Attractions Magazine ] via [ Gizmodo ]

Trossen Robotics sent out a bunch of grab bags of electronic, uh, junk, and challenged people to use it to make a robot. Here’s the winner:

[ Trossen Robotics ]

After a bunch of testing, Auro Robotics has started a fully autonomous shuttle service around a fixed route at Santa Clara University:

The shuttle is public, and if you need to get around the campus, you can check it out for yourself.

[ Auro Robotics ]

We’ve been huge fans of I-Wei Huang’s steampunk creations for a long time, because they’re so unlike anything else out there:

“It barely works, and that’s the charm of it.” A truer thing has never been said about a robot.

[ CrabFu ]

Edinburgh wants you to know how proud they are of their Valkyrie robot:

[ Edinburgh Centre for Robotics ]

From Lockheed Martin:

On Nov. 8, four autonomous vehicles collaborated for a joint firefighting and lifesaving demonstration: the K-MAX helicopter, the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA), the Desert Hawk 3.1 fixed wing unmanned aircraft, and the Indago quadrotor. First, Indago located hot spots and directed the K-MAX to drop water on the fire. Then, the Desert Hawk 3.1 surveyed the site and worked with K-MAX and SARA to complete a search and rescue mission.

[ Lockheed Martin ]

Get enough Thymio robots together in one place, and no upside-down bowl (or whatever that thing is) is safe:

[ Thymio ]

Here’s a Lego Mindstorms robotic factory that manufactures paper cubes. With LASERS.

[ Heise Online ]

Aerovironment announced a new VTOL drone this week that’s a sort of hybrid flying wing design that’s been getting more and more popular recently:

Quantix will give users the same air superiority, trusted certainty and security AeroVironment is known for as the leading drone supplier to the U.S. Department of Defense. Quantix launches a new era of remote sensing for aerial inspections, mapping and actionable insights. It combines the advantages of vertical lift-off and horizontal flight for seamless operations and maximum coverage. Offering a robust and reliable solution empowering users through its fully-automated operation and instant intelligent insight. Quantix easily collects high-resolution imagery quickly and accurately to identify issues before they become costly problems.

[ AeroVironment ]

This is not real. Also, it’s in Dutch.

I don’t know what this is trying to sell, but I’d buy one.

[ YouTube ]

We haven’t heard from Rod Brooks recently, so here’s a recent interview he did at the World Robot Conference in Beijing. You’ll have to imagine what questions he’s being asked, but it’s not hard to do so.

[ Rethink Robotics ]

Zipline’s Keller Rinaudo talks to ReCode about why drone delivery is happening for real in places like Rwanda before it’s happening anywhere in the developed world.

[ ReCode ]

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