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October 6, 2021

Caltech’s LEO Flying Biped Can Skateboard and Slackline

Back in February of 2019, we wrote about a sort of humanoid robot thing (?) under development at Caltech, called Leonardo. LEO combines lightweight bipedal legs with torso-mounted thrusters powerful enough to lift the entire robot off the ground, which can handily take care of on-ground dynamic balancing while also enabling some slick aerial maneuvers. In a paper published today in Science Robotics, the Caltech researchers get us caught up on what they’ve been doing with LEO for the past […]
October 5, 2021

See Inside DARPA's Incredible Subterranean Finals Course

When DARPA announced that the Subterranean Challenge Final Event would take place in a giant cavern complex in Louisville, and that it would include elements of tunnels, caves, and the urban underground, we had very high hopes for what the agency would put together. And, predictably, DARPA vastly exceeded those hopes. Inside of the Louisville Mega Cavern, DARPA worked for months to construct an incredible course from scratch, full of the kind of detail that you’d expect to see on […]
September 23, 2021

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

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.” “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 […]
September 21, 2021

DARPA SubT Finals: Meet the Teams

This is it! This week, we’re at the DARPA SubTerranean Challenge Finals in Louisville KY, where more than two dozen Systems Track and Virtual Track teams will compete for millions of dollars in prize money and being able to say “we won a DARPA challenge,” which is of course priceless. We’ve been following SubT for years, from Tunnel Circuit to Urban Circuit to Cave (non-) Circuit. For a recent recap, have a look at this post-cave pre-final article that includes […]
September 9, 2021

With New Roomba j7, iRobot Wants to Understand Our Homes

The power that computer vision has gained over the last decade or so has been astonishing. Thanks to machine learning techniques applied to large datasets of images and video, it’s now much easier for robots to recognize (if not exactly understand) the world around them, and take intelligent (or at least significantly less unintelligent) actions based on what they see. This has empowered sophisticated autonomy in cars, but we haven’t yet seen it applied to home robots, mostly because there […]
August 25, 2021

An Army of Grain-harvesting Robots Marches Across Russia

The field of automated precision agriculture is based on one concept—autonomous driving technologies that guide vehicles through GPS navigation. Fifteen years ago, when high-accuracy GPS became available for civilian use, farmers thought things would be simple: Put a GPS receiver station at the edge of the field, configure a route for a tractor or a combine harvester, and off you go, dear robot! Practice has shown, however, that this kind of carefree field cultivation is inefficient and dangerous. It works […]
August 20, 2021

Elon Musk Has No Idea What He’s Doing With Tesla Bot

Yesterday, at the end of Tesla’s AI Day, Elon Musk introduced a concept for “Tesla Bot,” a 125 lb, 5’8″ tall electromechanically actuated autonomous bipedal “general purpose” humanoid robot. By “concept,” I mean that Musk showed some illustrations and talked about his vision for the robot, which struck me as, let’s say, somewhat naïve. Based on the content of a six-minute long presentation, it seems as though Musk believes that someone (Tesla, suddenly?) should just go make an autonomous humanoid […]
August 10, 2021

JPL's Plan For The Next Mars Helicopter

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is currently preparing for its 12th flight in Jezero Crater on Mars, which is 11 flights more than was strictly necessary for NASA to have declared the technology demonstrator a success. Over the last four months, Ingenuity has proven that flight on Mars is not only possible, but practical, and can contribute tangible scientific value—even for a vehicle that was not designed to do much in the way of science at all. The question now is […]
July 28, 2021

How Robots Helped Out After The Surfside Condo Collapse

Editor’s Note: Along with Robin Murphy, the authors of this article include David Merrick, Justin Adams, Jarrett Broder, Austin Bush, Laura Hart, and Rayne Hawkins. This team is with the Florida State University’s Disaster Incident Response Team, which was in Surfside for 24 days at the request of Florida US&R Task 1 (Miami Dade Fire Rescue Department). On June 24, 2021, at 1:25AM portions of the 12 story Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida collapsed, killing 98 people and […]
May 24, 2021

To Protect Against Weaponized Drones, We Must Understand Their Key Strengths

Baykar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Azerbaijan recently used its Turkish Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) to great effect in its conflict with Armenia.  For all the amazement that swarms of consumer-grade drones provoke—flying in choreo­graphed clusters to form logos, pictures, and even QR codes in the sky—they’re also a subject of some strategic concern among national security experts. Drone swarms, one analyst says, are the new WMD (weapon of mass destruction); “slaughterbots” are the new nightmare technology, says another; one […]