The Week's Best Robot Videos: A Musical Trio and a Ninja

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 29 2012 5:41 PM

The Week's Best Robot Videos: A Musical Trio and a Ninja

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 sing, dance, and throw some punches.

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The Band of Bots
This trippy group of bots made its public debut Wednesday at Google’s I/O conference. Using an Android phone as a brain, Shimi can dance to music, listen and look around a room, detect faces, and even follow users as they move about. The bots come from Georgia Tech’s Center for Music Technology—home to other impressive robomusicians like Shimon the marimbist and Haile the drummer. Professor Gil Weinberg, director of the Center for Music Technology, hopes to make Shimi available to consumers, but we might have to wait for the 2013 holiday season before we see it on the shelves. For those who perpetually have songs stuck in their heads, Shimi has another handy feature to offer. When a user taps or claps a beat, Shimi can analyze the rhythm and pick the best match out of the phone’s library. And when the song starts, you can both dance in celebration.

Submitted by @jasonmaderer of Georgia Tech.

The Space Invaders
This trippy group of bots wowed audiences at last week’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France. These 16 quadrotors make one of the most complex and stunning examples of robotic artistry to hit the web in a long time. KMel Robotics and Marshmallow Laser Feast choreographed this flying ballet, featuring beams of light on the ground, mirrors on the quadrotors, and a Vicon tracking system to ensure exact positioning. (KMel Robotics, by the way, is the company founded by the guys who brought us the robot-powered James Bond theme song.) Perhaps with all the worries surrounding drones these days, it’d be better not to have them ask if you’re “prepared to meet your creator,” but I imagine an audience could be led into anything after that hypnotic show.

Quadrotors: An Explainer
OK, we all agree that quadrotors are awesome. But how do they work? From the MIT+K12 video collection comes an “expedited learning experience” at the physics and mechanics behind the darling of the robotics world. For instance, the kind folks at MIT let us know what it takes for a quadrotor to twist, dodge, and flip. And finally, we get a clear description of how computers control these bots so well. Don’t feel bad that the video comes from a series ostensibly created for school kids—there’s something for everyone.

Via MIT.

The Ninja Bot
Behold, the cutest ninja robot you’ve seen all week. This tablet-headed bot from RT Corp. also appeared at Google’s I/O Conference this week, sporting an Android-powered head and red boxing gloves. In this video, we see it mimic the movement of a human and play a life-size version of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. The Ninja Master is no toy, though. At $50,000 a pop, it’s likely to land in research labs, where its interactivity, anthropomorphism, and open-source mind make it adaptable to a wide range of uses. It clearly has some swift moves, but it might be a little early to put it into some real ninja work.

Via Laptop Mag.

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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