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.


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.


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.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.