The Week's Best Robots Unlock Doors, Entrance Fish, and Pay Tribute to James Bond

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
March 2 2012 4:25 PM

The Week's Best Robots Unlock Doors, Entrance Fish, and Pay Tribute to James Bond

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 have a fish impersonator, a builder bot, and a robotic musical performance.

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The Bond Bots 

We’ve seen these bots build, swarm, and stack, and now they’re back with a tribute to James Bond. Sure, the performance is a little thin on the musical side, but once again the demonstration in robotics is impressive. A computer program tells the quadrotors where to go, and they autonomously determine the best route to avoid any collisions. Vijay Kumar, a roboticist at the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab, explained the philosophy and mechanics behind the quadrotor project in a TED talk this week, where he unveiled the robots’ Bond song. The work for this video was done in just three days, giving us hope for more great videos from the GRASP Lab in the future.

Via CNET.

The Fishy Bot 

Fish seem to be welcoming of their new robot overlords. This bot was designed at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University to study collective animal behavior. In the study, the fish mostly ignored the robot when it wasn’t moving, but when the water started flowing and the tail moved a certain way, they began following behind. The researchers hope robots like this can be used to lure fish to a safer location in the event of an oil spill or some other environmental hazard.

Via MSNBC.

The Arm Bot 

Robotic hands are useful, but also very difficult to do well. This iteration, two years in development, comes from DARPA’s Autonomous Robotic Manipulation program. The goal is to perform human tasks quickly and autonomously. It could be quite a bit quicker and less clunky, but in each clip shown, the bot acts on its own without human control. It uses cameras and tactile sensors to complete its assigned jobs, which so far include stapling papers and unlocking doors. Ultimately the bot could move to more DARPA-esque tasks like disabling bombs.

The Construction Bot 

Robots are an attractive option for construction and building maintenance jobs that could be dangerous for humans. This machine, developed by researchers at Cornell University, can navigate the trusses of a structure, disassemble them, and reassemble them into new forms. The hinges and gears—even custom 3-D-printed gears— allow the bot to climb, cross, and relocate the trusses in specific patterns. While the work shown here is still pretty simple, the researchers hope bots like this could someday make entire buildings recyclable, or even help astronauts on spacewalks repair their vehicles.

Via Gizmag.

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