The Week's Best Robot Videos: Farmer Bots, Teamwork Bots and Acro-Bots

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 26 2012 5:34 PM

The Week's Best Robot Videos: Farmer Bots, Teamwork Bots and Acro-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, robots unite to climb a hill and plant some seeds, and a daredevil bot takes walking to new heights.

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Amazing things happen when robots work together. On a basic level, we’ve seen quadrotors play music, and in a more complex example, three types of robots team up to monitor the coral reef. Now researchers from the Universite Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium and Instituto Universitario de Lisboa in Portugal have paired helicopter drones with small rovers to create a robotic team that can guide itself based solely on visual feedback. Both types of robots have cameras to see their surroundings, but they’re limited by their own vantage points. By sharing their visual information, they can determine the shapes and dimensions of objects around them, including the slope of the hill in this video. The rovers in this team are able to link up to push themselves over the hill, with the guidance of the bots flying overhead. Working this way, the team can function without having to know maps or GPS coordinates. It might sound nice in theory, but the last few seconds of the video get at what we all really want from technology. If robot teams are ready to bring me chips and beer as I lounge on the couch, let the robot uprising begin right now.

The Farmer Bots 

A dry field full of crawling robots sounds nightmarish, but it could be a farmer’s dream come true. These swarming crawlers were developed by roboticist and biotechnologist David Dorhout to help plant seeds on farms. Each bot scans the land underneath it to determine if seeds have already been planted, and when it finds an empty patch, it drills a small hole to bury a new seed underground. The robots communicate with one another, so when a large area needs attention, a bot can call the others over to lend a hand. New Scientist reports that the current version only plants seeds, but could soon be developed to help in fertilizing the land, harvesting crops, and removing weeds.

Watch the video here, via New Scientist.

The Acro-Bot

Considering how many robots have trouble simply staying upright, what we see here looks like nothing short of mechanical magic. This bot was built by Japanese roboticist Masahiko Yamaguchi, better known online as Dr. Guero, who has a knack for robotic balancing acts. His most famous project was a humanoid bicyclist, and he’s also challenged his machines by lofting them on stilts and shifting their centers of gravity. Like a human tightrope walker, this bot uses its arms for stability, and it has small notches in its feet to keep a loose grip on the 4-milimeter-wide steel wire. With Dr. Guero’s work, we might finally be able to outsource unnecessary death-defying stunts to the robotic world.

Via PopSci, Gizmag.

ICYMI

Other robot videos on Future Tense this week include:

·         Virignia Tech’s robotic soccer star CHARLI shows it’s not a one-trick pony with this masterful Gangnam Style performance.

·         DARPA’s Pet-Proto robot completes an obstacle course as teams gear up for the Robotics Challenge.

·         A pumpkin-carving robot to help you avoid the mess as you decorate for Halloween.

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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