February 26, 2021

Meet Catfish Charlie, the CIA’s Robotic Spy

Photo: CIA Museum CIA roboticists designed Catfish Charlie to take water samples undetected. Why they wanted a spy fish for such a purpose remains classified. In 1961, Tom Rogers of the Leo Burnett Agency created Charlie the Tuna, a jive-talking cartoon mascot and spokesfish for the StarKist brand. The popular ad campaign ran for several decades, and its catchphrase “Sorry, Charlie” quickly hooked itself in the American lexicon. When the CIA’s Office of Advanced Technologies and Programs started conducting some […]
February 24, 2021

When Robots Enter the World, Who Is Responsible for Them?

Over the last half decade or so, the commercialization of autonomous robots that can operate outside of structured environments has dramatically increased. But this relatively new transition of robotic technologies from research projects to commercial products comes with its share of challenges, many of which relate to the rapidly increasing visibility that these robots have in society. Whether it’s because of their appearance of agency, or because of their history in popular culture, robots frequently inspire people’s imagination. Sometimes this […]
February 20, 2021

Soft Legged Robot Uses Pneumatic Circuitry to Walk Like a Turtle

Soft robots are inherently safe, highly resilient, and potentially very cheap, making them promising for a wide array of applications. But development on them has been a bit slow relative to other areas of robotics, at least partially because soft robots can’t directly benefit from the massive increase in computing power and sensor and actuator availability that we’ve seen over the last few decades. Instead, roboticists have had to get creative to find ways of achieving the functionality of conventional robotics components using […]
January 29, 2021

Video Friday: These Robots Have Made 1 Million Autonomous Deliveries

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!): HRI 2021 – March 8-11, 2021 – [Online Conference] RoboSoft 2021 – April 12-16, 2021 – [Online Conference] Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.
January 7, 2021

How Boston Dynamics Taught Its Robots to Dance

A week ago, Boston Dynamics posted a video of Atlas, Spot, and Handle dancing to “Do You Love Me.” It was, according to the video description, a way “to celebrate the start of what we hope will be a happier year.” As of today the video has been viewed nearly 24 million times, and the popularity is no surprise, considering the compelling mix of technical prowess and creativity on display. Strictly speaking, the stuff going on in the video isn’t […]
December 17, 2020

"Boston Dynamics Will Continue to Be Boston Dynamics," Company Says

Last week’s announcement that Hyundai acquired Boston Dynamics from SoftBank left us with a lot of questions. We attempted to answer many of those questions ourselves, which is typically bad practice, but sometimes it’s the only option when news like that breaks. Fortunately, yesterday we were able to speak with Michael Patrick Perry, vice president of business development at Boston Dynamics, who candidly answered our questions about Boston Dynamics’ new relationship with Hyundai and what the near future has in store.
December 11, 2020

Hyundai Buys Boston Dynamics for Nearly $1 Billion. Now What?

This morning just after 3 a.m. ET, Boston Dynamics sent out a media release confirming that Hyundai Motor Group has acquired a controlling interest in the company that values Boston Dynamics at US $1.1 billion: Under the agreement, Hyundai Motor Group will hold an approximately 80 percent stake in Boston Dynamics and SoftBank, through one of its affiliates, will retain an approximately 20 percent stake in Boston Dynamics after the closing of the transaction. The release is very long, but does […]
December 2, 2020

Australian Team Running Its Own DARPA-Style Cave Challenge to Test Robots

Although the in-person Systems Track event of the DARPA SubT Challenge was cancelled because of the global pandemic, the Systems Track teams still have to prepare for the Final Event in 2021, which will include a cave component. Systems Track teams have been on their own to find cave environments to test in, and many of them are running their own DARPA-style competitions to test their software and hardware. We’ll be posting a series of interviews exploring where and how […]
November 10, 2020

How We Won the DARPA SubT Challenge: Urban Circuit Virtual Track

This is a guest post. The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent positions of IEEE or its organizational units.​ “Do you smell smoke?” It was three days before the qualification deadline for the Virtual Tunnel Circuit of the DARPA Subterranean Challenge Virtual Track, and our team was barrelling through last-minute updates to our robot controllers in a small conference room at the Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI) offices in Ann Arbor, Mich. That’s […]
October 14, 2020

The Long Arm of NASA: The OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Gets Ready To Grab An Asteroid Sample

Just how do you bring home pieces of asteroid? Carefully, that’s how, with grudging respect for the curveballs the asteroid can throw you. Sixteen years after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission was first proposed and two years after the robotic spacecraft went into orbit around asteroid 101955 Bennu, mission team members are now counting down to the moment when it will descend to the surface, grab a sample—and then get out of there before anything can go wrong. The sampling is set for next Tuesday, […]