January 9, 2020

10 Years of Automaton's Most Popular Stories

.sm img { width: 150px !important; height: 108px !important; } We’ve been writing about robots here at IEEE Spectrum for a long, long time. Erico started covering robotics for Spectrum in 2007, about the same time that Evan started BotJunkie.com. We joined forces in 2011, and have published thousands of articles since then, chronicling as many aspects of the field as we could. Autonomous cars, humanoids, legged robots, drones, robots in space—the last decade in robotics has been incredible. To kick […]
January 7, 2020

Hiro-chan Is a Faceless Robot Baby

This robot is Hiro-chan. It’s made by Vstone, a Japanese robotics company known for producing a variety of totally normal educational and hobby robotics kits and parts. Hiro-chan is not what we would call totally normal, since it very obviously does not have a face. Vstone calls Hiro-chan a “healing communication device,” and while the whole faceless aspect is definitely weird, there is a reason for it, which unsurprisingly involves Hiroshi Ishiguro and his ATR Lab.
January 6, 2020

Caltech’s Brain-Controlled Exoskeleton Will Help Paraplegics Walk

Photo: Caltech This lower-body exoskeleton, developed by Wandercraft, will allow disabled users to walk more dynamically. Bipedal robots have long struggled to walk as humans do—balancing on two legs and moving with that almost-but-not-quite falling forward motion that most of us have mastered by the time we’re a year or two old. It’s taken decades of work, but robots are starting to get comfortable with walking, putting them in a position to help people in need. Roboticists at the California Institute […]
January 3, 2020

Your Next Salad Could Be Grown by a Robot

Photo: FarmWise FarmWise’s AI-powered robots drive autonomously through crops, looking for weeds to kill. At first glance, the crops don’t look any different from other crops blanketing the Salinas Valley, in California, which is often called “America’s salad bowl.” All you see are rows and rows of lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower stretching to the horizon. But then the big orange robots roll through. The machines are on a search-and-destroy mission. Their target? Weeds. Equipped with tractorlike wheels and an array of […]
January 1, 2020

U.S. Commercial Drone Deliveries Will Finally Be a Thing in 2020

Photo: United Parcel Service This large quadcopter delivers medical samples at a Raleigh hospital complex. When Amazon made public its plans to deliver packages by drone six years ago, many skeptics scoffed—including some at this magazine. It just didn’t seem safe or practical to have tiny buzzing robotic aircraft crisscrossing the sky with Amazon orders. Today, views on the prospect of getting stuff swiftly whisked to you this way have shifted, in part because some packages are already being delivered […]
December 27, 2019

AI System Warns Pedestrians Wearing Headphones About Passing Cars

aside.inlay.xlrg.XploreFree { font-family: “Georgia”, serif; border-width: 4px 0; border-top: solid #888; border-bottom: solid #888; padding: 10px 0; font-size: 19px; font-weight: bold; text-align: center; } span.FreeRed { color: red; text-transform: uppercase; font-family: “Theinhardt-Medium”, sans-serif; } span.XploreBlue { color: #03a6e3; font-family: “Theinhardt-Medium”, sans-serif; } How can headphone-wearing pedestrians tune out the chaotic world around them without compromising their own safety? One solution may come from the pedestrian equivalent of a vehicle collision warning system that aims to detect nearby vehicles based purely on […]
December 10, 2019

Sarcos Demonstrates Powered Exosuit That Gives Workers Super Strength

One year ago, for IEEE Spectrum’s special report on the Top Tech for 2019, Sarcos Robotics promised that by the end of the year they’d be ready to ship a powered exoskeleton that would be the future of industrial work. And late last month, Sarcos invited us to Salt Lake City, Utah, to see what that future looks like. Sarcos has been developing powered exoskeletons and the robotic technologies that make them possible for decades, and the lobby of the […]
December 3, 2019

Skydio 2 Review: This Is the Drone You Want to Fly

Let me begin this review by saying that the Skydio 2 is one of the most impressive robots that I have ever seen. Over the last decade, I’ve spent enough time around robots to have a very good sense of what kinds of things are particularly challenging for them, and to set my expectations accordingly. Those expectations include things like “unstructured environments are basically impossible” and “full autonomy is impractically expensive” and “robot videos rarely reflect reality.” Skydio’s newest drone […]
November 28, 2019

Robot Gift Guide 2019

Welcome to the eighth edition of IEEE Spectrum’s Robot Gift Guide! This year we’re featuring 15 robotic products that we think will make fantastic holiday gifts. As always, we tried to include a broad range of robot types and prices, focusing mostly on items released this year. (A reminder: While we provide links to places where you can buy these items, we’re not endorsing any in particular, and a little bit of research may result in better deals.) If you need even more robot gift ideas, take […]
November 27, 2019

How Boston Dynamics Is Redefining Robot Agility

Gif: Bob O’Connor/IEEE Spectrum With their jaw-dropping agility and animal-like reflexes, Boston Dynamics’ bioinspired robots have always seemed to have no equal. But that preeminence hasn’t stopped the company from pushing its technology to new heights, sometimes literally. Its latest crop of legged machines can trudge up and down hills, clamber over obstacles, and even leap into the air like a gymnast. There’s no denying their appeal: Every time Boston Dynamics uploads a new video to YouTube, it quickly racks […]