The Week's Best Robot Videos: William Shatner's Guide to the Mars Rover Curiosity

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 3 2012 6:15 PM

The Week's Best Robot Videos: William Shatner's Guide to the Mars Rover Curiosity

The Mars Bot, Narrated by William Shatner
Early Monday morning NASA’s newest Mars rover, Curiosity, will attempt a diabolically tricky landing on the Red Planet as it begins its search for signs of microbial life. To explain how it will go down—not in flames, we hope—NASA got rock-it-man William Shatner to narrate this video explaining the plan for Curiosity. The whole show—from entering the atmosphere to landing in the Gale Crater—will last about seven minutes. That’s also how long it takes for any signals to get back to Earth, so the whole process is handled by automation, and NASA’s team won’t know what happens until seven agonizing minutes later. Prepare for landing with a thorough look at the mission from CNET, check out the rover’s toolkit at PopSci, and head to the Xbox Marketplace for a free download of NASA’s Mars Rover Landing game. Now we just have to hope Curiosity makes like Gabby Douglas and sticks it.

Via Wired.

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The Feline Bot
It’s not exactly on another planet, but this bot from the University of Pennsylvania is pretty good at landing, too. Just like a cat, this robot always lands on its feet. The secret is in the tail, which swings itself as the robot falls. It’s much like the lizard-like Tailbot, which uses an active tail to keep itself from tumbling after rolling off a ledge. The study written along with this robot suggests that active tails like this one could be an important addition to autonomous robots, as a sort of plug-in attachment that keeps devices from being incapacitated by a fall.

The WALL-E Bot
Robotics can be as much of an art as it is a science. Prop maker Mike Senna, who lives in Yorba Linda, Calif., created this remote-control WALL-E replica (a follow-up to his popular R2-D2 replica) to share with children at City of Hope, a cancer care center near Los Angeles. He built this real-life version of Pixar’s most beloved robot from scratch over a two-year span. Senna has documented WALL-E’s construction and adventures on his blog, which includes some fun pictures with R2-D2, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the Green Lantern. Senna went all-out to perfect WALL-E’s industrial look, but the icing on the cake is the emotion in those binocular eyes—easily the most expressive PVC pipe you’ve seen all week.

Via Slashfilm.

The Stone-Maker Bot
Another adventure in robotic artistry, the Stone Spray Robot is a research project from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Spain. The machine is a 3-D printer that sprays sand with an adhesive to build structures layer by layer. The arm can move in multiple directions to print the stone (as opposed to 3-D printers that only print from the top) and results in some complex, coral-like sculptures that can be sturdy enough to support something on top. The project demonstrates the use of additive manufacturing in architecture. While it only makes small structures at the moment, researchers made concept art to show what it could look like on a much larger scale.

Via Technabob.

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.