June 29, 2020

Q&A: The Masterminds Behind Toyota’s Self-Driving Cars Say AI Still Has a Way to Go

Illustration: iStockphoto Getting a car to drive itself is undoubtedly the most ambitious commercial application of artificial intelligence (AI). The research project was kicked into life by the 2004 DARPA Urban Challenge and then taken up as a business proposition, first by Alphabet, and later by the big automakers. The industry-wide effort vacuumed up many of the world’s best roboticists and set rival companies on a multibillion-dollar acquisitions spree. It also launched a cycle of hype that paraded ever more ambitious […]
June 22, 2020

How Roboticists (and Robots) Have Been Working from Home

A few weeks ago, we asked folks on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to share photos and videos showing how they’ve been adapting to the closures of research labs, classrooms, and businesses by taking their robots home with them to continue their work as best they can. We got dozens of responses (more than we could possibly include in just one post!), but here are 15 that we thought were particularly creative or amusing. And if any of these pictures and […]
June 19, 2020

Quickly Embed AI Into Your Projects With Nvidia’s Jetson Nano

Illustration: James Provost When opportunity knocks, open the door: No one has taken heed of that adage like Nvidia, which has transformed itself from a company focused on catering to the needs of video gamers to one at the heart of the artificial-intelligence revolution. In 2001, no one predicted that the same processor architecture developed to draw realistic explosions in 3D would be just the thing to power a renaissance in deep learning. But when Nvidia realized that academics were gobbling […]
June 16, 2020

Boston Dynamics' Spot Robot Dog Now Available for $74,500

Boston Dynamics has been fielding questions about when its robots are going to go on sale and how much they’ll cost for at least a dozen years now. I can say this with confidence, because that’s how long I’ve been a robotics journalist, and I’ve been pestering them about it the entire time. But it’s only relatively recently that the company started to make a concerted push away from developing robots exclusively for the likes of DARPA into platforms with […]
May 21, 2020

The Short, Strange Life of the First Friendly Robot

Photo: Kagaku Chishiki Face Time: Makoto Nishimura [left] and his team designed Gakutensoku’s head so that it could express human affect. In 1923, a play featuring artificial humans opened in Tokyo. Rossum’s Universal Robots—or R.U.R., as it had become known—had premiered two years earlier in Prague and had already become a worldwide sensation. The play, written by Karel Čapek, describes the creation of enslaved synthetic humans, or robots—a term derived from robota, the Czech word for “forced labor.” Čapek’s robots, originally […]
May 7, 2020

ThereCraft’s Lifting Body Drone Acrobatically Delivers Packages With Pinpoint Accuracy

The delivery drone space is getting more and more crowded, but we tend to see slightly different flavors of the same basic designs and modes of operation. There are point-to-point multirotors, hybrid point-to-point systems (like tailsitters), and fixed-wing drones that require launch and landing infrastructure. One thing that all of these drone platforms have in common is scale—the current generation of autonomous commercial delivery drones are optimized for payloads of a few kilograms, delivering high value, time sensitive payloads in […]
May 6, 2020

Boston Dynamics' Spot Robot Gets Even More Capable With Enhanced Autonomy, Mobility

Boston Dynamics’ Spot has been out in the world doing useful stuff (and some other things) for long enough now that it’s high time for a software update packed with more advanced skills and new features. Spot Release 2.0, launching today, includes improvements to navigation, autonomy, sensing, user programmability, payload integration, communications, and more. Some of that more is an improvement to Spot’s physical capabilities—namely, the robot is better at dealing with slippery surfaces (something Boston Dynamics has always excelled […]
April 7, 2020

UC Berkeley's AI-Powered Robot Teaches Itself to Drive Off-Road

This article was originally published on UC Berkeley’s BAIR Blog. Look at the images above. If I asked you to bring me a picnic blanket to the grassy field, would you be able to? Of course. If I asked you to bring over a cart full of food for a party, would you push the cart along the paved path or on the grass? Obviously the paved path. While the answers to these questions may seem obvious, today’s mobile robots would likely […]
March 20, 2020

Coronavirus Pandemic: A Call to Action for the Robotics Community

aside.inlay.CoronaVirusCoverage.xlrg { font-family: “Helvetica”, sans-serif; text-transform: uppercase; text-align: center; border-width: 4px 0; border-top: 2px solid #666; border-bottom: 2px solid #666; padding: 10px 0; font-size: 18px; font-weight: bold; } span.LinkHereRed { color: #cc0000; text-transform: uppercase; font-family: “Theinhardt-Medium”, sans-serif; } When I reached Professor Guang-Zhong Yang on the phone last week, he was cooped up in a hotel room in Shanghai, where he had self-isolated after returning from a trip abroad. I wanted to hear from Yang, a widely respected figure in the robotics […]
March 9, 2020

Flight of the GermFalcon: How a Potential Coronavirus-Killing Airplane Sterilizer Was Born

Dr. Arthur Kreitenberg and his son Elliot got some strange looks when they began the design work for the GermFalcon, a new machine that uses ultraviolet light to wipe out coronavirus and other germs inside an airplane. The father-son founders of Dimer UVC took tape measures with them on flights to unobtrusively record the distances that would form the key design constraints for their system. “We definitely got lots of looks from passengers and lots of inquiries from flight attendants,” Dr. […]