What is this? Video Wednesday?! Shocking, I know. Apparently, there's some U.S. holiday on Thursday celebrating explosives or something, and I have been told that both Thursday and Friday are therefore "days off" at IEEE Spectrum (and most of the rest of the U.S.). I'm not entirely sure what a "day off" is, but because two of them are happening anyway, we're going to stuff all of this week's robot videos into Wednesday instead.

The Third Annual Robot Film Festival is festivaling on July 20 and 21st, and the best thing about it this year (the very best thing) is that it's in San Francisco! (Yep, I live nearby :) To help maximize its awesomeness, RFF has a little Kickstarter going, essentially as a ticket pre-sale. There's some swag thrown in as well, along with the opportunity to attend hands-on workshops. All the film festival is looking for is a relatively modest $3k, so if you're in SF and you're planning on going, right this second is a fantastic time to pledge for some tickets.

[ Robot Film Festival ]



Ever wonder what a day in the life of Suitable Technologies looks like? Turns out, it's much like a day in the life of any other office, except there are lots of robots driving around with people inside them. Metaphorically, that is. Just don't get them wet or feed them after midnight.

That time lapse was captured during Suitable's first ever Hack Day. The winner was, obviously, Super Beam Mario Kart:

The only thing missing is all the power-ups: like, when someone in a beam fires a virtual red shell, a human needs to run up and smack the leading robot across the screen with a baseball bat. Good luck catching up now, bwahahaha!

Oh, and here was the prize for first place, by the way. Epic.

[ Suitable Technologies ]



RoboCup 2013 is over and done with, and that means videos of the finals! Here's how it went down in the humanoid leagues:

RoboCup 2013 Kid Size FINAL: IRAN / USA


RoboCup 2013 Teen Size FINAL: GERMANY / JAPAN


RoboCup 2013 Adult Size FINAL: TAIWAN / JAPAN


Humanoids are nice, but the non-humanoid leagues are my favorite, because they're just so much better at playing soccer. It's incredible to see these robots support each other across the field, string together passed, and beat defenders to make aggressive shots on goal. 

RoboCup 2013 - Semi Final: Tech United vs CAMBADA




What can you do with an Arducopter? You can freakin' SAVE LIVES, MAN!

[ Flite Test ] via [ DIY Drones ]



For those of you with giant boxing robots, here's something you probably shouldn't do with them:

I dunno why the film opens with that "somewhere in Eastern Europe" line, 'cause this is what goes on in my basement every weekend.

Platige Academy ]



I know it sort of seems like we close with a Rodney Brooks talk every other week around here, but seriously, the dude is a tremendous speaker, and even though by now we know what he's getting at from the very beginning, it's still worth listening to what he has to say. Somehow, as generally jaded on robots as I am, Rodney Brooks manages to convince me that robots are going to save humanity every single damn time.


[ Rethink Robotics ]

The Conversation (0)

How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman

“I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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