This is it, folks. Tomorrow we head to Japan, and into the loving embrace of IROS (IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems) and iREX (International Robot Exhibition), from whence few ever return.
Well, I guess we should say that pretty much everybody does actually return, but that doesn't make it any less death-defying for your intrepid team of bloggers. We've got 153 sessions on our schedule for IROS alone, and iREX (which only happens every other year) is a big exciting unknown. Over the next week, we'll probably be on a weird schedule (whatever time zone you're in, Tokyo is probably the opposite of it), but keep checking back because we'll be putting up as much robotic amazingness as we possibly can without killing ourselves. Or maybe a little bit beyond that.
So yeah, definitely stick with us, because you won't want to miss anything that happens next week. And if you missed anything that happened this week, we'll get you all caught up courtesy of Video Friday.
Biggest story of the week? Definitely GimBall, a non-self-destructible (that's a thing, right?) evolution of AirBurr from EPFL:
This is a little bit of an IROS preview, so we'll have more details for you when we see this guy fly in person next week.
Via [ Robohub ]
Runner up (although not by much) for biggest story of the week also comes from Switzerland. In ETH Zurich's Flying Machine Arena, UAVs are learning how to weave tensile structures:
Also an IROS preview, we'll hunt down more for you on this at the conference.
Our final big headliner has nothing to do with IROS, or even real robots (yet). It's a concept video from the European Space Agency showing how robots of the future might help us build bases on the Moon:
ESA is looking to the future of space exploration using robots ranging from small humanoid robots to larger construction robots with varying degrees of autonomy and flexibility.
This animation shows advanced concepts of robots designed to explore, prepare and help humans in the very harsh conditions found on the Moon and beyond. For many of the concepts shown, ESA has already developed real-life prototypes, including the multifunctional wheels seen on the first robot in this video.
[ ESA ]
There's something strange in this neighborhood, but no need to call anyone, because this ghost is a robot:
It'd be cooler if the costume got caught in the rotors, because then we'd get to see the ghostcopter consume itself, turn into shreds, and quite possibly explode.
[ YouTube ]
To be really effective, ghostcopter should take some flying lessons from Team Blacksheep. This isn't one of their blissful exotic flyover videos set to music, but rather just a minute of footage featuring an impressive stunt (followed by a near disaster) 30 seconds in:
[ Team Blacksheep ]
At RoboBusiness, Baxter was busy manipulating boxes of candy (showing off some new multi-level horizontal grabs) and then NOT GIVING IT OUT TO HUNGRY JOURNALISTS.
[ Rethink Robotics ]
Well, Unbounded Robotics has gone and given UBR-1 some scissors. Remember this day, because you'll be telling your children (the ones the robots haven't enslaved, at least) that you saw it begin.
This makes my brain hurt:
This same lab has used their high-speed camera and hand systems for pure evil with their unbeatable (and totally cheating) rock-paper-scissors robot, a second generation of which was just released:
FZI's Lauron hexapod can handle slopes like you wouldn't believe. Or, slopes like you would believe, if you believe in 35 degree slopes, which I don't.
The six-legged walking robot LAURON V has an additional, fourth rotational joint close to the main body, which allows LAURON to orientate its legs towards the ground. The behavior-based posture control enables LAURON to walk up slopes by adapting this leg orientation, shifting the Center of Mass (CoM) and redistributing stress. The posture control uses no visual or 3D data and has no knowledge about the inclination of the slope. LAURON's posture control only relies on its foot contact sensors and its internal IMU. The slippery surface of the wooden slope did not provide enough friction to walk up inclination greater than 25°. Next experiments will be performed on a slope with higher friction coefficient. Filmed at FZI Research Center for Information Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013.
[ Lauron ]
The original MQ-8B FireScout from Northrop Grumman is much cuter than the MQ-8C, but it's still kinda cool to see a helicopter flying around with the windows totally covered over. Makes you wonder what's in there, doesn't it?
[ FireScout ]
Humans have used puppets to make human-like performances for other humans for, I dunno, millennia? Robots may be able to do something similar:
[ GRITS Lab ]
You can do lots of things with Sphero, but what's important is that your dog really, really wants one:
Wherever that beach is, I desperately want to take my Sphero there. You know, for, um, robot enrichment. Also, at 0:18, does that mean that Sphero was technically in the Louvre?
[ Sphero ]
Robotis' THOR DRC robot gets a bit of a workout at RoboWorld 2013 in Korea:
The most critical piece of information from this video is that Gangnam Style is still going.
[ Team THOR ] via [ Robots Dreams ]
Also from RobotWorld 2013 is this itty bitty Maxon delta robot. It's hard to get a sense of scale, but consider the size of a naked LED. This robot is small.
Via [ Robots Dreams ]
I'd personally love a robot that was smart enough to untie knots, but until our civilization advances enough to reach that point, we'll have to be satisfied with robots tying knots instead:
There's nothing really new in this pile of B-Roll of Northrop Grumman's X-47B UCAS, but I'm still not over the fact that it totally looks like it belongs in a sci-fi movie:
[ X-47B ]
How exactly do you get a $400,000 robot to shave you? Very, very carefully:
This is part of the Robots for Humanity project from Georgia Tech (and, previously, Willow Garage). You can read more about it in a previous article of ours.
Aldebaran has partnered with Nuance to teach NAO to be a lot better at voice interaction. For typical users (by which I mean non-roboticists), voice interaction is going to be the primary way they'll probably want to interact with robots, and Aldebaran is trying to figure out how to make it work reliably and seamlessly:
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.