The Week's Best Robot Videos: "The Evolution of Dance," Mechanized

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 13 2012 5:19 PM

The Week's Best Robot Videos: "The Evolution of Dance," Mechanized

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 do the twist, skip stones, and get a bit emotional.

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The Evolution of Dance Bot
What was once the most-watched video on YouTube just got an update for the future. The NAO robot from Aldebaran Robotics has done just about every iconic dance you can think of (e.g., “Thriller”), and yet each new video is still a treat. In this installment, it re-creates Judson Laipply’s masterpiece, “The Evolution of Dance,” move for move. I’ll let the video speak for itself, except to point out how much attitude this little guy brings to that move 38 seconds in.

The Skippy Bot
If this summer hasn’t been everything you’d hoped for, maybe you haven’t been skipping enough stones. That’s the philosophy behind Skippy the Robot, a telepresence bot camped out on a lake in Sun Valley, Idaho. Users set the angle and force, then click to make Skippy sling a rock across the water. The bot is part of a tourism campaign for Sun Valley that lets users sign in online, skip a stone, and share a video of their mini-vacation on Twitter and Facebook.

Via the Verge.

The Emotional Bot
Is this robot a step out of the uncanny valley? Researchers at Italy’s University of Pisa designed FACE (Facial Automation for Conveying Emotions) to robotically re-create human facial expressions and study how emotion can factor into human-robot interactions. One of the biggest barriers to interaction with robots is how unsettling they can be when they look something like humans. No matter what emotion a “realistic” robot face shows, a person’s response is typically to back away and end any interaction, preventing an emotional connection. While this bot isn’t perfectly humanlike, 32 motors under the skin give it a nearly full range of motion for expressing emotions. The team believes FACE will be a useful form of social skills training for those with autism spectrum disorders.

The Space Service Bot
Satellites in orbit are nearly impossible to repair or refuel. When a satellite runs out, it’s basically done for, as Wired reports, because fuel tanks are sealed before takeoff. But with the help of a robot aboard the International Space Station, NASA will begin testing the possibility of robotically unsealing those tanks, refilling them, and performing any other maintenance that may be necessary. The robot, named Dextre, comes from the Canadian Space Agency and will have to carry out actions with extreme precision if NASA’s project is to go beyond its current testing phase. Dextre has been on the ISS since 2008 and last year began performing its official duties, like changing batteries and replacing cameras outside the space station. Ultimately, the two-armed space bot could cut down on the number of risky spacewalks astronauts take to make repairs in orbit.

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.