The Week's Best Robot Videos

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.

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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.

Via CNET.

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.