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, robot get sick for science, throw some punches, and try to stick a landing.
The Vomiting Bot
It’s a new year, and what better way to celebrate the future than with a robot that pukes all over the floor so you don’t have to? The aptly named Vomiting Larry is a humanoid with spectacular spewing capabilities. Researchers at the British Health and Safety Laboratory built Vomiting Larry to study how the fast-spreading norovirus is transmitted when an infected person throws up, and the result is equally gross. According to their study, the explosive vomiting demonstrated by Larry can jettison virus particles up to 10 feet away, and exposure to fewer than 20 norovirus particles can make a person sick. That sheds some light on how the illness is able to affect so many people—about 21 million in the United States each year ,according to the Centers for Disease Control—but scientists are still in the dark when it comes to a cure. Skip to about 2:40 to see Larry in action. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my hands.
The Meta Bot
Robots fighting robots is nothing new. But robots leading other robots in a proxy war against humans? Now you’ve got my attention. This man-vs.-machine bout of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots features a Fanuc M-20iA factory bot in the red corner, duking it out with a human from Synaptic Robotics in the blue corner. OK, it isn’t really an impressive demonstration of robotic dexterity. After all, it’s just doing the same motion over and over again. But this thing is probably as good as any Mortal Kombat button-masher you knew growing up.
The Gymnast Bot
I love finding a good, agile robot, almost as much as I enjoy watching those robots fail. In all fairness, this bot’s work on the horizontal bar is impressive—the dismount just needs a little work. YouTube user Hinamitetu has been building robot gymnasts for the past few years, and if you scroll through the channel, you can see an array of tricks (including a couple of successful landings). The bot in this video stands about 18 inches tall and weighs about 13 pounds, so I imagine it could do some damage flying around the room like that.
Via IEEE Spectrum.
Aside from military drones, President Barack Obama’s favorite robot must be the autopen, a device that allowed him to sign this week’s fiscal cliff-averting bill from Hawaii. National Journal has a brief history of the autopen, and a video of one scribbling the ol’ John Hancock.
Astrobotic Technology is gunning for Google’s $20 million Lunar X Prize with a plan to put rovers on the moon. The plan calls for launching the bots in October 2015 to scout for polar ice and determine a way to harvest it so humans might someday set up a moon colony. Read more at VentureBeat.
With rovers on Mars and the moon, the next logical step is to explore a Martian moon, right? A spiky robotic hedgehog is being developed to explore the Red Planet’s larger moon, Phobos. Read more from NBC News.
TODAY IN SLATE
The Irritating Confidante
John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.
My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s
Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band
Can it be again?
The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee
Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?
Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?
Driving in Circles
The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.