One small step for a robot, one giant leap for robotkind

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The Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) developed a control algorithm enabling Boston Dynamics' Atlas humanoid robot to walk across a short stretch of rocky terrain. It's much harder than you might think.

"After each step the robot explores the new foothold by shifting its weight around its foot," IMHC explains. "To maintain balance we combine fast, dynamics stepping with the use of angular momentum (lunging of the upper body)."

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Madeline Gannon's Mimus examines robot-human interdependence

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The Design Museum in London just unveiled Mimus, Madeline Gannon's newest exploration of robot-human interdependence. From its enclosure, Mimus senses visitors and interacts with them. Read the rest

Adorable doglike robot can climb fences and open doors

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The Ghost Minitaur is the latest iteration of terrifyingly cute agile legged robots. I for one welcome our doglike robot overlords. Read the rest

Musical feline artbot creates abstract paintings

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YouTuber Die Struktur created the first rotating cat automaton that paints to musical accompaniment. Now, instead of "my kid could paint that," idiots can say "my maneki-neko on a turntable could paint that." Read the rest

Check out Disney's real wall-climbing robot!

Disney Research Zurich and ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) developed VertiGo, a mobile robot that can roll up walls. It uses two tiltable propellers that keep it rolling and also provide the thrust that keeps it against the wall when moving vertically.

“About why Disney is interested in this area, I am not able to say specifics as you can understand," Disney Research scientist Paul Beardsley told IEEE Spectrum. "But just speaking in general, one can imagine that robots with lighting effects could be useful for entertainment effects or for wall games. This also relates to the question of why the ground-wall transition is useful. If you have to manually place a robot on a wall at the start of a deployment, and manually remove it at the end, then that's taking manpower and it's not flexible. If the robot can make those transitions automatically, then you are a step in the direction of autonomous deployment, and that makes the technology more powerful. We are motivated by making a practical device, so it is real-world feedback and challenges that drive our work.”

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See MIT's odd new jumping cube robots

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MIT researchers developed this "Soft Cube Capable of Controllable Continuous Jumping." From IEEE Spectrum:

Inside of the robot there are two motorized rotors, each connected to one end of four flattened loops of spring steel. Activating the rotors causes the spring steel loops that I’m just going to go ahead and call tongues to get pulled through rectangular openings (mouths) into a round cavity inside the body of the robot, compressing them. As the rotors continue to turn, eventually the compressed tongues get pulled all the way around back to the mouths, at which point they spring out, releasing that elastic energy all at once and causing the robot to jump.

"With some light-weight payloads, such as miniature cameras, the robot can be used for exploration tasks," write the researchers. "Moreover, a wireless sensor network can be automatically deployed and reconfigured for outdoor surveillance by using a group of our jumping robots."

Next, they hope to increase the robots' power so the cubes can jump higher and cover more ground.

"MIT's Cube Robot Uses Springy Metal Tongues to Jump" (IEEE Spectrum)

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Tossable spherical robot transforms into insectoid robot with legs!

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Researchers from Japan's Chiba Institute of Technology demonstrated this spherical robot that rolls around until its four legs pop out for scurrying. Like a quadruped robot disguised as a Spheero! From the scientific paper (PDF):

We have proposed and developed a new quadruped walking robot with a spherical shell, called "QRoSS". QRoSS is a transformable robot that can store its legs in the spherical shell. The shell not only absorbs external forces from all directions, but also improves mobile performance because of its round shape. In rescue operations at a disaster site, carrying robots into a site is dangerous for operators because doing so may result in a second accident. If QRoSS is used, instead of carrying robots in, they are thrown in, making the operation safe and easy. We developed QRoSS-I and conducted basic experiments to verify performance which includes landing, rising and walking through a series of movements.

(via IEEE Spectrum)

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New Google robot named Atlas is obviously drunk

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Atlas the robot recently walked in the woods for the first time. From the looks of that bot-wobble, it looks like he packed his forest flask.

WATCH: Why Japan already embraces our android future

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VPRO backlight looks at the current state of androids in Japan, including an interesting segment on geminoids, or robot twins made in the likeness of a human counterpart: Read the rest

WATCH: crazy cute jerboas and the hopping robot they inspired

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Jerboas, tiny desert rodents that move like kangaroos, are notoriously hard to film. BBC Earth was able to film a jerboa's escape from a fox, and its unique shape has now inspired a robot:

Jerboas use their long tails to transfer energy to their legs, allowing them to hop many times their body length. It turns out the hair on the bottoms of their their feet also serves a number of purposes, including insulation, traction, and stealth on the sand.

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Watch: Tiny floating robot can jump from water's surface

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Researchers led by Je-Sung Koh created a biomimetic robot that floats using surface tension and can jump from the surface of water like a water strider insect. Read the rest

Americans destroy hitchhiking robot

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We stopped the automaton cold.

WATCH: Our robot overlords will excel at ping-pong

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This ad from Omron Automation & Safety intends to make advanced automation seem fun, but the execution makes it seem like your future will depend on whether you win your sudden death table tennis match with a robotic version of the Aliens xenomorph. Read the rest

3D printing blends rigid and soft to improve robot performance

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Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences released an interesting demo of blending rigid and soft materials during 3D printing to create hybrid robots with enhanced performance for tasks like jumping and landing. Read the rest

WATCH: Bricklaying robot ushers in semi-automated masonry

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Construction Robotics developed this bricklaying robot SAM (Semi-Automated Mason) after addressing two key challenges: mortar application and onsite variables that can hinder precision. Read the rest

WATCH: Adding a cockroach shell improves microbot mobility

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The fields of bioinspiration and biomimetics look at animal evolution to improve machine function. Chen Li at UC Berkeley's Poly-PEDAL Lab found that an oval cockroach shell atop a small robot helps it squeeze through tight spaces more easily. Read the rest

Watch Beachbot make large-scale sand drawings

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Disney Research teamed with ETH Zürich students to create Beachbot, a robot that creates pre-programmed sand drawing. Read the rest

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