Robotics

WEpod to be first self-driving shuttle on public roads

WEpod to be first self-driving shuttle on public roads

While some car makers and technology companies like Google are still somewhat scrambling to make self-driving private cars a reality on public roads, Netherlands might already be taking the next big step towards autonomous driving: public transport. Called the WEpods, these electric shuttles will be ferrying commuters between the towns of Wageningen and Ede in Gelderland starting November. And it won't be settling for just some special, restricted road. These self-driving pods will be cruising along public roads and rubbing shoulders with regular vehicles and drivers.

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Giant baby faced robot used to study infant expressions

Giant baby faced robot used to study infant expressions

Sure, a robot walking through the woods on its own is a bit disconcerting. A robotic big cat that can run you down? Worthy of some consternation. A robot with a giant baby face, though? Downright creepy. At least one such creation exists, however, thanks to a project by researchers at US San Diego. Among other things, the team found that babies and comedians have something in common.

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Boston Dynamics’ Spot robo-dog being tested by Marines

Boston Dynamics’ Spot robo-dog being tested by Marines

DARPA and Boston Dynamics’ robotic dog Spot, which we talked about back in February, is now being tested by the Marine Corps for possible use in warfare situations. DARPA trained Marines located at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico on how to operate Spot, which weighs 160 lbs. Among other things, Spot is being tested as a way to search for enemies ahead of Marines entering a building.

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Japan’s Pepper robot will soon have a snarky U.S. personality

Japan’s Pepper robot will soon have a snarky U.S. personality

Japan’s Pepper robot, the adorable little robotic helper that works at some stores in Japan, is getting a new personality for use in the United States. It is expected Pepper will come to the US in 2016, and when it does, it will be a little more sarcastic than its Japanese counterpart. Rather than bowing, the robot will offer up a high-five. And if you ask it a dumb question, you might get a sassy remark back.

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iRobot’s new Roomba 980 can be controlled with a smartphone

iRobot’s new Roomba 980 can be controlled with a smartphone

iRobot has rolled out its new Roomba 980, the latest among its long line of robotic vacuum cleaners. Says the company, the 980 is its best Roomba so far, able to clean better and handle itself in a more capable fashion than the previous version. This is the maker’s first Roomba to use visual localization and adaptive navigation together, as well as control from a mobile app over WiFi and the improved ability to suck dirt off your floor.

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Volvo garbage truck concept has a robot do all the lifting

Volvo garbage truck concept has a robot do all the lifting

Volvo has just announced a new joint venture product that aims to develop small, quiet robots that pick up your trash. Dubbed ROAR, for Robot-based Autonomous Refuse handling, the robots act as assistants to garbage truck drivers, taking care of the heavy lifting so they don't have to, and performing the task much more discreetly than the loud automated claw arms (seen above) in wide use today. It also helps to make the idea more appealing with the robots' concept design looking like something right out of a Pixar movie.

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DARPA’s robo-chopper legs sneer at your helipad

DARPA’s robo-chopper legs sneer at your helipad

DARPA has revealed a new prototype landing gear for helicopters that could drastically improve the already maneuverable aerial vehicles. One of the main handicaps with helicopters is that require a stable, flat surface to land on, something that can be rare to come by in environments where helicopters need to operate most. DARPA's solution is essentially four robotic legs with multiple joints that can easily adapt to landing on angled or even moving surfaces.

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DARPA’s new prosthetic limb lets paralyzed man feel objects

DARPA’s new prosthetic limb lets paralyzed man feel objects

Prosthetic limbs have become nearly science fiction-like in their sophistication, allowing the human mind to control robotic arms and hands in a way similar to how one controls their own limbs. DARPA is counted among the research entities developing this technology, and it has recently taken it a step further, using neurotechnology to enable a paralyzed individual to "feel" objects through a prosthesis. The prosthetic is sensitive enough that sensations touching each finger could be discerned individually.

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Poor baby BB-8 already gets a gruesome teardown

Poor baby BB-8 already gets a gruesome teardown

Sphero really made headlines when it revealed the mini BB-8, a smartphone controlled miniature version of what will be the next lovable mascot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Immediately, the small rolling droid endeared itself to many, especially considering it was made available on #ForceFriday. But as cute and lovable as the BB-8 maybe, inquisitive minds can't but help try to pry into the small robot and see how it works. Yes, the BB-8 just got a teardown and it's not for the faint of heart.

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Driving a robot vacuum cleaner is surprising fun

Driving a robot vacuum cleaner is surprising fun

Sometimes it feels like everything is joining the Internet of Things, no matter how tenuous, but it turns out remotely controlling your robo-vacuum is great. Neato has brought its Botvac Connected to ShowStoppers at IFA 2015, a connected version of its automated vacuum cleaners, which gives you the choice of either leaving it to its own devices or being a bossy housekeeper.

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Boston Dynamics’ robot goes for unsettling outdoors jog

Boston Dynamics’ robot goes for unsettling outdoors jog

Despite all the concerns about artificial intelligence and the quick progression of the robotics' industry, it is easy to dismiss worry as neither technology is, as of now, ready for world domination. The robots don't yet look like anything we're inclined to anthropomorphize, many of them are clumsy, and they're usually shackled to a power cable tether. Boston Dynamics' has shattered that impression with its new unsettling video of one of its robots taking a jog through the woods.

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iRobot lawn mower given FCC approval in US

iRobot lawn mower given FCC approval in US

There's been rumors for years that iRobot has been working on adapting the technology behind the popular Roomba vacuum cleaner to create a robotic lawn mower. It turns out that the company has just been granted permission from the FCC to do just that, so now we know the plans are real. The approval revealed a few details about how the mower will work, but it seems we're still years away from having a flat, round robot take care of our lawn.

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