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The invasion ofsocial robotscontinues. This week, Japanese robot maker Vstone and telecom company NTT announced plans to market little humanoids that can interact with people and also with devices around the house. In a press conference in Tokyo, the desktop-size robots, called CommU and Sota, held conversations with two lifelike female androids and, later, a male android. (Hmm, this last one, it’s possible that it was a real man, but we’re not sure.)

The little talking robots look really cool, especially the way the turn their heads and eyes in the direction of the person or robot that’s speaking. But this paragraph in the Japan Times article left us a bit confused:

CommU and Sota cannot understand what people are saying and are just acting out programmed conversations. They can only tell whether an individual is speaking or not.

We hope a future upgrade will let the robots understand what you’re talking about, so you can have an actual, you know, conversation with them.

[ Nikkei ] and [ Japan Times ]

Thanks Glenn!

We have no additional information on this video, besides that it appears to show a human-sized version of PIBOT using a full scale flight simulator:

It’s obviously not using vision, but based on output from the simulator, it can convincingly take off and land.

[ USRG ]

If you’re looking forward to getting a Jibo and then immediately trying to do your own stuff with it, here’s what you have to look forward to:

[ Jibo ]

McGill’s robotics program looks cool enough that we can forgive them all for being Canadians (and therefore funnier than the rest of us):

[ McGill University ]

Hinamitetu now has a robot that can do vault:

[ YouTube ]

This was somehow not a thing that we knew existed: Robocon, a competition for autonomous badminton robots. YouTube has some robot-on-robot matches, but the more interesting video is this exhibition between a pair of robots from UESTC and Dong Jiong, who won a silver medal in badminton in Atlanta:

Not bad, right?


This video is from 2012, and it doesn’t show any amazing new research or anything. But sometimes, little fluffy kitties are just, like, necessary, you know?

[ Hexbug ]

HERB, of Carnegie Mellon’s Personal Robotics Lab, and CURI, of Georgia Tech’s Socially Intelligent Machines Lab, learn trajectory constraints from demonstrations.

How not to spill stuff, in other words:

[ HERB ]

It's Back to the Future at RoboSub 2015:

[ RoboSub 2015 ]

Researchers from MIT, CMU, and ABB presented a paper on “extrinsic dexterity” for robots (using the environment to assist with grasping) at ICRA 2014. Here’s an update video from MIT that looks like it’s probably intended to be attached to a press release that hasn’t been, um, released:

[ MIT ]

It’s (still) good to see that DRC teams haven’t all called it quits and mothballed the robots that they worked so hard on, and ESCHER is now able to handle stairs with no trouble at all:

[ TREC ]

Thanks Robert!

WPI-CMU's DRC team also sent us a video this week, featuring “less robot abuse” than the one they sent us last week. Not sure how to feel about that, honestly, because well-intentioned and practical robot abuse is almost always fun to watch, and not seeing ATLAS bite it is always a vague disappointment:

[ Team WPI-CMU ]

Thanks Siyuan!

The continually evolving design for UMD’s solar-powered flapping wing Robo Raven (now on version 3, subversion 4) has always struck me as supremely elegant:

[ UMD ]

Is there anything that ATRIAS can’t do? Besides maybe stand still?

[ OSU ]

SenseFly felt the need to test its eXom drone at high altitude on a mountain in Switzerland:

Next, we’re expecting more testing to see how well eXom performs on tropical beaches.

[ eXom ]


Via [ Gizmodo ]

TIAGo, the mobile manipulator: it is a service robot created by PAL Robotics to provide the best help in universities and research institutions. TIAGo is an ideal platform for research, as it combines navigation, perception, manipulation and human-interaction abilities. Watch TIAGo's prototype in action on this video.

It’s great to see the physical version of TIAGo, since we’ve mostly just seen still images and renderings up until now. The big question is, will TIAGo be able to out-UBR-1Fetch Robotics?

[ PAL Robotics ]

Throwing a drone and catching it back like it’s a boomerang is something that you should absolutely not try with any drone except for Gimball:

[ Flyability ]

Pay attention, Kuka, because this is a ping pong robot that really works:

[ Omron ] via [ BB ]

We’re continually hoping for great things from Anki. We haven’t seen ’em yet, but we’re still hoping.

[ Anki ]

We have no idea who Bart van Overbeeke is, but he’s put together some highlight movies of Tech United Eindhoven at RoboCup 2015:

[ Tech United Eindhoven ]

ETH Zurich’s Autonomous Systems Lab has been developing a solar powered, long endurance UAV that managed to stay aloft for 81 hours straight. To end the week, here’s a video of the test run in REAL TIME!

Kidding, kidding, it’s a 4-minute summary, and there is actually some drama at the end, so it’s worth watching:

[ Atlantik Solar ] via [ DIY Drones ]

Seriously, though, to end the week, here’s a talk from Dr. Luis Sentis and Donghyun Kim from UT Austin’s Human Centered Robotics Lab given just a few days ago at Dynamic Walking 2015:

[ Dynamic Walking 2015 ]
[ UT Austin HCRL ]

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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