Future Tense

The Week’s Best Robot Videos: In the Seas and on the Stairs

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 try their (mechanical) hands at conquering the seas and the stairs.

The Octo-Bot
It looks like robotic jellyfish won’t be the only soft robots exploring the seas. The Octopus Project, funded by the European Commission, is studying octopus movement and incorporating it into design and robotic technologies. This iteration of the project is an eight-armed, submersible robot. The two large tentacles use a soft robotics technology powered by heat, while the six smaller tentacles use a system of steel and nylon cables to re-create octopuslike motion. Why focus on the octopus? The real-life version offers a great example of a soft structure with advanced motor skills that can grasp objects, move around, change shape, and much more. Researchers behind project hope to create new technologies by mimicking everything an octopus can do—so if all goes well, we might soon have a robot predicting soccer game winners.
Via IEEE Spectrum.


The Water Strider Bot
While octopi and jellyfish swim around underwater, this Lego “Omniboat” can skim the surface above. The designer of this bot, Vimal Patel, built the center of the boat with Legos and keeps them afloat with Lego water bottles. The setup even has a camera on board. Patel used another Lego pontoon to film parts of the video above. The next step, we hope, is getting face-to-face footage of the ducks in the pond.

The Stair-Master Bot
Call me heartless, but Honda’s Asimo robot falling down the stairs is one of my favorite robot videos. Now I’m usually at least a little disappointed when a bot successfully climbs even a few steps. But this robot from DARPA and Boston Dynamics makes it look so natural and so easy makes me feel regret my penchant for accidents . The DARPA project has achieved some of the most lifelike two-legged movement in robotics. In addition to climbing the stairs, we see it walk on a treadmill and stay upright even after being pushed. The video is an early example of what could come from the DARPA Robotics Challenge, a long-term contest to create a robot capable of a wide range of physical humanlike activities. Competitors’ robots will have to navigate a simulated disaster, probably performing tasks like driving vehicles, traversing rubble, and climbing ladders. There doesn’t appear to be a requirement for push-ups, but it’s good to know this bot can do that, too.
Via PCMag.

The Mars Rover Test Bot
The Curiosity rover is well on its way to Mars, but engineers are working in some last-minute practice time here on Earth. The replica of Curiosity lets the team behind the Mars Science Laboratory get used to steering the rover’s robotic arms, so they know how to interpret the inputs from the cameras and pick up objects on the Martian surface. Curiosity’s spectacular landing performance is scheduled for Aug. 6, giving the team about four more months to perfect its skills before show time.
Via IEEE Spectrum