The Week’s Best Robot Videos: Bots Fight It Out and Patrol the Seas

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
March 30 2012 4:50 PM

The Week’s Best Robot Videos: Bots Fight It Out and Patrol the Seas

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, robots jump, swim, and fight for our attention.


The Flea Bot 

For rolling bots, a curb, rock, or stair can put a damper on any travel plans. But even a building can’t stop Sand Flea, the jumping rover from Boston Dynamics. The robot is based on an earlier project that Boston Dynamics worked on with Sandia Labs, though it doesn’t look like this version can jump while moving. Sand Flea uses an angling mechanism and a CO2-powered piston to launch itself into the air, showing no difficulty in jumping onto a roof and falling back down to the ground. The robot was developed for use in Afghanistan, where it could send video from behind walls and inside buildings that might be dangerous for humans to enter.

The Jelly Bot 

Robojelly doesn’t just have one of the best names in robotics; it’s also got some of the smoothest moves. With a design inspired by jellyfish, this robot could be used to monitor the seas, whether by tracking pollution or conducting surveillance. Robojelly runs on hydrogen and oxygen, which produce heat when they react. The heat briefly bends the material inside the robot, causing the jellyfish-like movement that propels the bot forward. Yonas Tadesse, the lead author of the study that details the project, tells Discovery News that the jellyfish design is ideal for two reasons. First, jellyfish use simple movements that are easy to mimic. Second, but no less important, they have fewer natural predators. The next step for researchers is to operate segments of the bot separately, allowing for steering and more precise control.

The Featherweight Bots 

One promising sign for robotics is the fact that robot fighting competitions aren’t just a pipedream of subpar sci-fi movies. This clip shows the final round of last weekend’s ROBO-ONE championship in Kawasaki, Japan, where robo-competitor GAROO clinched the title by taking down his opponent Gargoyle Mini. The agility of these bots is pretty amazing, especially considering how heavy, slow, and clunky robots tend to be. The dramatic music might’ve tipped you off, but this is more than just a game—the team behind GAROO went home with a huge trophy and a cash prize of about $12,000.

Via Engadget.

The App’s-Best-Friend Bot 

If you once had trouble putting down your Tamagotchi, and now have similar feelings toward your iPhone, you might never be able to look away from Smartpet. This robotic dog was created by Bandai (the makers of Tamagotchi), and it comes to life when docked with an iPhone. Using a free app, Smartpet responds to gestures and voice commands, works as an alarm clock, and even uses puppy-dog eyes when it’s sad. Smartpet is scheduled to hit the shelves in Japan on April 24. No word yet on when (or if) we can expect to see it in North America.

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



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Resigns

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.


How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Sports Show by and About Women

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 4:15 PM The Trials of White Boy Rick A Detroit crime legend, the FBI, and the ugliness of the war on drugs.
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 4:26 PM How to Measure the Value of Your Personal Data in Cookies: A Slate Guide
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.