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.

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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.

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