The Week's Best Robot Videos: Swinging Bots

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 1 2012 5:38 PM

The Week's Best Robot Videos: Swinging Bots

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 robots make some music and try to replace your conscience.

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The Swinging Bot
Using little more than two electromagnets, this bot swings like a gymnast to get from point A to point B. Developed at Northwestern University in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, the bot, named Gibbot, latches onto a metal sheet and times its magnets to propel itself from one side to the other. The motion emulates brachiation, which is similar to how primates swing in tree branches or children move on monkey bars. According to IEEE Spectrum, the key challenge for researchers is perfecting when the magnets grab the wall so the bot moves as quickly and efficiently as possible. And if there’s any doubt about how great brachiating can be, this gibbon should put that to rest.

Via PopSci.

The Shoulder Bot
If simply imagining your conscience on your shoulder isn’t enough to make the right choices, this “miniature humanoid” might do the trick. MH-2, developed at Japan’s Yamagata University is a telepresence robot that sits on one person’s shoulder and transmits video to someone in another location. Using a sensor like Microsoft’s Kinect, the bot can then mimic the actions of the distant person, ostensibly letting two people in different places share the same experience. (The person wearing the robot gets the added experience of a 22-pound backpack.) The project’s ultimate goal, shown at the end of the video, seems odd, but could be an interesting step forward in telepresence technology.

Via MSNBC.

The Ensemble Bot
We’ve seen robots play music before, but Sound Machines 2.0 throws some creativity in the mix. The collection of five single-stringed instruments is attached to a computer that analyzes a melody and uses its characteristics to improvise a new song. Festo, the German engineering firm that build the machine, describes it as “an artistic interpretation of the factory of the future.” The different parts of Sound Machines act independently, but “listen” to one another—a process that translates to decentralized, autonomous operations on the factory floor.

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.