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July 19, 2018

Augmented Reality Makes Robots Better Co-Workers

Robots that communicate what they’re doing in AR are more efficient (and more pleasant) to work with Most robots are designed to do work. As such, not a lot of time, effort, or money is spent on making them able to communicate with humans, because they’re usually just doing their own thing. This is starting to change a bit, though, as robots become versatile enough that it’s reasonable to have humans working with them more directly, and it’s becoming more […]
July 5, 2018

Popcorn-Driven Robotic Actuators

Popcorn is a cheap, biodegradable way to actuate a robot (once) It’s not that often that I can steal the title of a paper and use it for a blog article that people will actually read, but I think “Popcorn-Driven Robotic Actuators” totally works, so credit for that to Steven Ceron at Cornell University who’s the first author on this paper, presented at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in May. Let’s see what else I can steal from […]
July 2, 2018

Review: Parrot Anafi Drone

Parrot reenters the consumer drone space with the innovative new Anafi Parrot was one of the first (if not the absolute first) companies to take a crack at the consumer drone space. The AR Drone came out in 2010 (!), and Parrot followed it up a solid upgrade in the AR Drone 2.0 a few years later. Since then, we’ve seen the Bebop, some clever flying toys, and had a bunch of fun with the fixed-wing Disco. But at this […]
June 26, 2018

Teaching Bipedal Robots to Step Across Discrete Terrain

UC Berkeley and CMU researchers demonstrate dynamic walking on stepping stones Photo: UC Berkeley Like humans and most terrestrial animals, legged robots need the ability to move over rugged terrain to be useful in applications such as disaster response and search and rescue. However, designing control algorithms that can handle discrete footholds (like rubble or stepping stones) is challenging, because there are strict constraints on foot placement that can’t be violated and the motion of these systems are governed by […]
June 25, 2018

Layoffs at Watson Health Reveal IBM’s Problem with AI

Axed engineers say IBM isn’t always smart about artificial intelligence Illustration: IEEE Spectrum; Images: IBM; iStockphoto IBM, a venerable tech company on a mission to stay relevant, has staked much of its future on IBM Watson. The company has touted Watson, its flagship artificial intelligence, as the premier product for turning our data-rich but disorganized world into a smart and tidy planet. Just last month, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty told a convention audience that we’re at an inflection point in history. Putting […]
June 11, 2018

Verity Studios Raises $18M for Safe Swarming Drone Displays

Safe and reliable swarming drone tech could be making its way into consumer drones Photo: Cirque du Soleil/Richard TermineIn 2016 Verity Studios worked with Cirque du Soleil to bring flying lampshade drones to its show Paramour. Verity Studios, which took precision drone swarm technology from ETH Zurich and turned it into a spectacular live event display system, has announced a round of Series A funding totaling US $18 million from Fontinalis Partners, Airbus Ventures, Sony Innovation Fund, and Kitty Hawk. This […]
June 7, 2018

Can a Robot Be Divine?

Researchers explore whether robots can become useful sacred objects in a religious context Photo: Gabriele Trovato/Waseda UniversityA robot with the appearance of a Christian Catholic saint can pray together with users and cite parts of the Bible and stories of the life of saints. Robots appear to be in the middle of a gradual but persistent transition from automated tools that perform specific tasks to artificially intelligent entities that we interact with socially and emotionally. It’s not at all clear […]
May 31, 2018

Drone Delivery Becomes a Reality in Remote Pacific Islands

In Vanuatu, delivery drones will fly vaccines to isolated villages beginning in September Photo: UNICEFCurrently, health workers in Vanuatu often hike over mountains to deliver vaccines–but drones can fly over them. This September, delivery drones will begin to fly the friendly skies of Vanuatu. And this isn’t a one-shot demonstration, like many of the stunts we’ve seen from the likes of Amazon and Google. This is an attempt to make drones part of the medical infrastructure.   The South Pacific island […]
May 16, 2018

Feel What This Robot Feels Through Tactile Expressions

Inflatable spikes and goosebumps help this robot communicate Photo: Cornell We humans think we’re pretty clever with all of the different ways that we have of communicating with each other. We vocalize, we have expressive faces, we gesture. It seems like plenty of modes of communication, but we’re missing out on a few that are routine for animals, including texture: Animals can express emotional states through skin changes, like when cats cause their hair to stand up, or when a […]
May 15, 2018

Laser-Powered Robot Insect Achieves Lift Off

Everything is better with lasers, especially tiny robot insects Photo: University of Washington For robots of all sizes, power is a fundamental problem. Any robot that moves is constrained in one way or another by power supply, whether it’s relying on carrying around heavy batteries, combustion engines, fuel cells, or anything else. It’s particularly tricky to manage power as your robot gets smaller, since it’s much more straightforward to scale these things up rather than down—and for really tiny robots […]