The Week's Best Robots Dance, Play Hockey, and Induce Nightmares

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Jan. 27 2012 5:38 PM

The Week's Best Robots Dance, Play Hockey, and Induce Nightmares

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.

If don’t think robots will steal your job, consider this week’s videos, in which robots take on athletes, dancers, and even babies.


The Bust-A-Move Bots 

The Year of the Dragon began Monday, and it came with a celebration as impressive as its name. This 14-bot dance troupe took the stage with a catchy remix of the Russian song “Korobushka,” which you may recognize from Tetris. The mix of music, lights, and robotics makes for a remarkable show. Even if the robots’ moves aren’t entirely awe-inspiring, I wouldn’t want to face one in a dance-off. It’s especially amazing, though, that they dance in near perfect unison (with the amusing exception of the guy on the left about 40 seconds in).


The Baseball Bots 

We dare you to watch this quick clip without saying, “Wow.” This bot, called Agile Justin, hails from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and demonstrates the cutting edge of robotic movement. Agile Justin is the successor DLR’s Rollin’ Justin, which drew attention in 2009 when it was told to “dance like in Pulp Fiction.” This new version has more degrees of freedom, giving it the notably smooth and lifelike motion we see here. Berthold Bäuml, a DLR scientist studying robotic motion, tells Hizook that Agile Justin will be used to study “realtime dynamic whole body motion planning.” If Agile Justin keeps this up, maybe he could land himself a spot in the minor leagues.

Via Time.

The Hockey Bots 

If you love the idea of Robocup but can’t stand how slow the action is, the Robockey Cup might be just right for you. This video comes from the University of Pennsylvania, where Jonathan Fiene leads a class in designing robotic hockey teams that face off in the annual competition. The robots roll around the rink, use pistons to shoot the puck, and keep track of the action with several sensors. Students aren’t allowed to give their bots any instruction during the competition, and the autonomy yields some tense moments, including at 1:06 when one bot nearly goes rogue by putting the puck in its own goal. Based on the crowd’s reaction, robockey has all the excitement of human hockey without, well … this.  

Via Penn Current

The Nightmare-Inducing Baby Bot

Fair warning: You’ll wish you hadn’t seen this one. Professional animatronics designer Chris Clarke created this bot that moves like a baby and looks like the last thing someone sees in a horror film. According to the video description, the li’l creeper was created for an “anonymous TV series.” Though horrifying, it is undoubtedly a work of art and an incredible engineering feat. For filming purposes, it’s probably more reliable than an actual baby, but I sure wouldn’t want to be the stagehand who has to place it on set.

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.



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