Best Robot Videos of the Week: Juggling and Climbing Up Your Clothes

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, the 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation brought together a wide array of robotic abilities, and a mind-controlled robot captured headlines around the world.

The Juggle Bot
Despite my greatest efforts, I’ve never been able to figure out juggling, so seeing this creation from Japan’s Chiba University makes me equal parts jealous and amazed. The bot uses a high-speed hand, arm, and vision system to catch and toss two balls—and it’s not just repeating the same motion over and over. Cameras track the balls in the air and calculate how to catch one and throw the other, but its range of motion limits it to about five throws before the balls move out of reach. The researchers hope to improve on this, possibly by adding a joint at the shoulder, meaning we’re one step closer to knife-juggling robot-clowns in some kind of automated, nightmarish circus.

Via Ubergizmo.

The Clothes-Climber Bot
Don’t worry about wrinkles in your clothes—Clothbot loves them. From the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Clothbot squeezes fabric to create a small fold and pulls itself up with two gripping wheels. The bot doesn’t really do much else at this point, though the researchers behind the project mentioned that it could be used as a movable, shoulder-mounted, hands-free phone. A big accomplishment, though, would be if people can resist instinctively swatting Clothbot away as it climbs up their pants.

Via IEEE Spectrum.

The Indoor Drone Bot
The complicated world of autonomous flying drones could become even more complex with this demonstration by researchers at MIT. This small plane demonstrates aggressive flight maneuvers in a small indoor space, and a preloaded map of its surroundings helps it avoid smacking into anything around it. It uses a laser scanning system to find its place in the room, meaning it doesn’t need GPS to navigate places like a parking garage, where a satellite connection might not be possible. The result, as seen in the video, is a neat display of flying a small plane in tight spaces, and a fun video-game-like experience to match.

Via IEEE Spectrum.

Bonus: Of course the greatest robot video of the week—if not the year—is of Cathy Hutchinson, paralyzed by a stroke, controlling a robotic arm with her brain. Check out the Future Tense post with the video, and read the Atavist’s piece about Hutchinson and the technology that allowed her to sip coffee on her own for the first time since 1996.