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This Wall-Climbing Robot Has A Thing For High Art

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vertwalkerWe’re not trying to condone the illegal act of tagging public buildings or anything, but we’re saying if you ever did happen to get into such behavior, you’d have a hard time finding something more handy than Sonice Development’s Vertwalker, a wall-climbing robot programmed to perform the kind of wall art that a man with a just a spray can could only dream of. I do assume underground artist Banksy has Inspector Gadget legs, allowing him to do some of the things he’s done, but he’s like a mythical being at this point. Anybody could potentially own a Vertwalker. Owning a Banksy probably breaks a different sort of law or two.

This electronic artist was created by Berlin designers Julian Adanauer and Christoper Haas, who were inspired by art going vertical, no longer held to a horizontal tether. Essentially, it’s a Roomba equipped with a lip around the bottom of the device that creates a vacuum seal to form, allowing it to travel across walls. What makes it even more successful is the minimal amount of friction that the lip causes.

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Modular Robots Fly, Assemble Midair, and Swarm

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Distributed Flight ArrayYou know how everything from gnats to dogs to people becomes more disgusting and/or terrifying in a swarm? Let’s hope that doesn’t hold true for robots. Although not gross en masse, the future will certainly show us just how scary a swarm of flying robots can be. And it may not be as far off as you think.

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have developed Distributed Flight Array, a modular, multi-rotor, robotic vehicle that can drive and fly, as well as adjust its behavior for increased reliability and performance. Amazingly, the hexagonal robot does this by autonomously assembling itself, putting together the right amount of individual bots and rotors to fly effectively. Much like a kid’s interlocking toy, the individual robots join together into an autonomous whole that is more than the sum of its parts. It’s a little like Voltron, at least a first step in that direction.

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Meet ATLAS, DARPA’s Latest Terrifying Humanoid Robot

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DARPA’s Robotics Challenge (DRC), a competition aimed at facilitating the development of disaster rescue robots by dangling a $2 million grand prize, recently completed its first event, the Virtual Robotics Challenge. In a previous post we discussed the software used to control the simulated robot in the first phase of the competition.

The second phase, in which the field has been whittled from 26 teams down to 7, isn’t a simple simulation. Teams will be provided with an ATLAS robot, and at the December 2013 DRC trials, will have to demonstrate effective control using their own software. The tests involve programming ATLAS to perform a myriad of rescue-related tasks, such as driving, maneuvering on rubble and choppy terrain, moving debris, opening doors, climbing a ladder, using a power tool, and manipulating a pipe valve.

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Robot Used To Prove Zebrafish Don’t Wear Beer Goggles

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zPeople use the phrase “drink like a fish” without thinking about what it really means. They’re only taking one part of the equation into consideration. What we should be saying is, “Get hungover like a fish,” since fish never seem to be hungover. Perhaps we need to rethink the entire drinking thing. But that just sounds like sobriety.

After noticing that zerbrafish were oblivious when a crudely painted robo-fish was added into the mix, NYU-Poly’s Dynamic Systems Lab director Maurizio Porfiri began experimenting by putting the fish into tanks filled with varying amounts of ethanol. Sure, it was to test the level of companionship and attention given to the robo-fish, but also because all the fish’s older brothers and best friends said they would be total spazzes if they didn’t get ripped. (We picture this guy as the older brother.)

Strangely, the intoxication generally caused the fish to avoid contact with the robo-fish, which was made to resemble the opposite sex. They chose to swim around by themselves. Total loners, but with hearts of gold. Because this experiment successfully established a baseline for a controlled delivery of ethanol, it will serve as the foundation for further studies using the zebrafish, which have been a rising star in the scientific community as an alternative to the common lab mouse. Next up on the agenda is adding predators into the mix and testing reactions to danger. Just give them time to sober up first.

(Thanks to DVICE for the story, and for that one night in that Tijuana fish tank.)

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Robot Servant Learns And Anticipates Your Needs

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RosieI don’t know about you guys, but when I was a kid, my favorite part about watching The Jetsons was thinking about the future, when I’d be able to marry a beautiful wife and have two beautiful kids, all of whose names would appear in my opening theme song. Okay, okay, you got me. All I wanted was a talking dog and a robot maid. I’m only (a lazy) human!

It’ll still be a while before anything like Rosie comes around, but Computer Science assistant professor Ashutosh Saxena and a team at the Robot Learning Lab in the Computer Science Department at Cornell University have created a no-frills version of a robot servant that can actively anticipate certain needs. Don’t get me wrong, these are rudimentary needs, but it’s still pretty amazing.

Using the RGBD sensor inside an Xbox Kinect, Saxena and his team recorded a library of 3D videos uploaded into the robot’s “brain” that it can use to associate with real world actions. It’s also equipped with some kind of camera that allows it to take its own videos, thus increasing the amount of tasks it can understand. We’re still a ways from the assisted-aid robot in Robot & Frank, but this is a damned fine first step towards that goal.

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Leaping, Climbing Robot Will Thrill And Terrify You

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This is the coolest, and most frightening, thing you’ll see all day. A group of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have taught their robot, an adorable little guy named RHex, how to run, jump, and climb in quick succession.

Why is this a big deal? Because up to now we’ve seen robots that can do one of these things, but most are unable to perform these actions in a rapid sequence. Animals can do it. So can people. Up till now, this has been one of the things that set us apart from our inevitable mechanical oppressors. Well, now that gap is being bridged, and we’re one step closer to our doom as a species.