Future Tense

The Week’s Best Robot Videos: Beatle Bots and More

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 perform the Beatles, play chess, and get kicked around a gym.

The Fabbed Four Bots

Considering some other Beatles news this week, the Hubos face steep competition to become the next generation of the Fab Four. Researchers at Drexel University’s Music & Entertainment Technology Laboratory designed the robotic tribute band’s performance of “Come Together” as a (very expensive) demonstration of technology and creative expression. The band members could use a jolt of energy to liven up the show, and the singer could take some vocal lessons from Japan’s HRP-4C, but it’s still worth a watch. But beware RoboYoko.


Via IEEE Spectrum.


The Chess Bot

Here’s some good news for correspondence chess fans. As part of a senior project at Northeastern University, Reddit user FunGowRightNow combined the principles of automated chess boards with the power of the Internet, making it possible for competitors on opposite sides of the globe to engage in a game of chess in the physical world. An Arduino-powered mechanism below the board tracks movement, transmits data, and moves the competitor’s pieces into place. According to the post on Reddit, the software behind the project knows the rules of the game, so it can identify check situations and prevent illegal moves. The students working on the project say they’ll post some documentation online once they’re finished, so we could see a whole community of telepresence-chess players emerge in the next several months.


Via Gizmodo.

The Rollin’ Bot

MorpHex showed off its moves in December, and while the dancing and turning were impressive, it was disappointing to see a ball that didn’t roll. Now the bot that goes from zero to six legs in under three seconds can zip around the room, and we get a better look at how it crawls, adjusts its size, and artfully twirls its triangular panels. (And at the risk of recognizing the Star Wars prequels, doesn’t that move at 1:30 look like a precursor to destroyer droids?) Kåre Halvorsen, the bot’s creator, entered his project in the Boca Bearings 2012 Innovation Competition, where it holds a commanding lead over the other projects. The next step, Halvorsen says on his blog, is to make MorpHex more symmetrical on the inside, so it won’t have to roll in a curved path like it does now. He may also try a new design for the legs, so hopefully we’ll see more good things from this project.


Via the Verge.

The Spatula Bot

Who knew spatulas could give a robot so much charm? Instructables editor and DIY guru Randy Sarafan put this crawling bot together with some common household objects and inexpensive electronics. Its main function is to crawl forward, and a forward-facing sensor detects any objects that the bot should try to avoid. An open-source Arduino chip serves as the bot’s brain, and as Sarafan explains, more advanced programming could lead to more complex functions than the ones we see here. Sarafan posted the how-to guide for this simple bot, so now you’ve got something to do with your spare time (and spatulas) this weekend.

Via Technabob.

Bonus: For all the fans of the Qbo robot, TheCorpora released a time-lapse video this week showing the bot’s assembly process. In less than three hours, a bunch of plastic, metal, and electronic parts turn into a robot that likes what it sees when it looks in the mirror.

Via CNet.