The Week's Best Robot Videos

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Jan. 6 2012 4:51 PM

The Week's Best Robot Videos

Every Friday, Future Tense rounds up the best robot videos of the week. Seen a great robot video? Tweet it to @FutureTenseNow, or email us.

This week, we see attempts at creativity and more mechanization of real-life attributes.


The DJ Bot
We often wonder if robots can create, but has anyone asked if they can remix? The answer, based on this video, is a pretty firm “not yet.” Japanese artists and programmers Daito Manabe and Motoi Ishibashi built this mildly infuriating robot DJ. (Once you get the idea, skip ahead to about 1:40 to see the scratching accompanied by some actual music.) This hand attached to an industrial robotic arm scratches the vinyl, but it can’t exactly lay down a beat. For now, if you need a robot blasting music at your next party, we suggest you try DJ Roomba.

Via Gizmodo.

The Self-Aware Bot, Round 2
Last month
we saw Qbo discover itself in a mirror. But can Qbo tell itself apart from another one of its kind? (If not, it could be embarrassing.) With many so many people asking this after seeing the last video, the team at the Corpora went one step further to solve this self-awareness problem. Using a randomly generated pattern of light from Qbo’s nose, the bot can now tell whether it spies itself or another Qbo bot in the mirror.  Using speech and audio software, these two bots discover each other and hold a short introductory conversation. While Qbo still isn’t exactly modest, his counterpart seems to have developed the peculiar ability to hear faces.

Via Engadget.

The Leaping Lizard Bot
If a robot rolls off a cliff, it’s pretty much guaranteed to fall to the ground and suffer mechanical injury. In the quest to solve this problem, biologists and engineers at Berkeley sought inspiration from lizards. As seen in the video, when lizards jump, they use their tails to adjust the angle of their bodies in midair, ensuring a controlled landing. The scientists were able to replicate this process with Tailbot, a four-wheeled bot with an active tail that keeps the device from tumbling as it falls. When the tail is in use, Tailbot keeps a constant angle as it falls, allowing it to keep rolling forward when it lands. This could be an important development for robots used in rescue missions with difficult terrain, where an uneven surface could flip a bot over and render it useless.

The Cute Cardboard Bot
Boxie is proof that drone journalism doesn’t have to be scary. Created at MIT’s Media Lab, this machine was designed to gather people’s stories all by itself. Sporting big eyes, a polite smile, and a sense of helplessness (just like a real journalist!), Boxie created a short film by wandering the halls at MIT and asking people to talk about where they work. Of course, getting people to go along with the project was made easier by the fact that Boxie is particularly adorable. As researcher Alexander Reben tells us, the material used for Boxie’s outer shell made a big difference in how people felt about the machine. Could this bring a new wave of cardboard robots? Watch Boxie in action here.


Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Adam Sneed is a researcher for Future Tense at the New America Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @atsneed.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Dear Prudence
Oct. 21 2014 9:18 AM Oh, Boy Prudie counsels a letter writer whose sister dresses her 4-year-old son in pink tutus.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:25 AM The Brilliant Fake Novels of Listen Up Philip
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 9:39 AM The International-Student Revolving Door Foreign students shouldn’t have to prove they’ll go home after graduating to get a visa.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.