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The Best Robots of 2008

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the fully-functional dept.

Robotics 57

An anonymous reader writes "Robot innovation continued its relentless advances during 2008. SingularityHub has a showcase of the best robot videos of the past year. These robot videos are really amazing, and they show just how far we have come in the field of robotics in recent years." The videos include toy robots, robot musicians (which we've discussed in the past), modular robots that work together to move around, robots doing synchronized martial arts, the BigDog robot that can walk on almost any type of terrain, and robot soccer. We've also recently talked about a couple of robots that will bring you beer.

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So can I have my personal Optimus Prime yet? (1, Offtopic)

gapagos (1264716) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507031)

And will it run Linux?

Re:So can I have my personal Optimus Prime yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26507299)

I'll take a beowulf cluster of Linux running Optimus Primes.

Re:So can I have my personal Optimus Prime yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26508133)

In Soviet Russia a beowulf cluster of Linux running Optimus Primes run you.

Re:So can I have my personal Optimus Prime yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26515259)

There's no way I can get a license to drive a Linux running Optimus Prime... you insensitive clod!

Re:So can I have my personal Optimus Prime yet? (1)

nomorecwrd (1193329) | more than 5 years ago | (#26515295)

beowulf cluster of Linux running Optimus Primes

Until there is a robot in the kitchen (4, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507083)

Robots as we imagine them haven't really evolved. I think the number 1 advancement in robotics of 2008 will be the memristor, if it delivers what some say it will to artificial intelligence (will programming languages fundamentally change considering that, new keywords and all?)

The synchronized robots are nice, but besides the lack of muscle (being worked upon), it seems the lack of brain is holding back robotics indefinitely. It seems as if would be like the car industry trying to advance in the late 1800s and early 1900s without a suitable motor to power everything else about the vehicle.

Re:Until there is a robot in the kitchen (5, Insightful)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507287)

A memristor isn't going to suddenly allow you to make computers that can do more than any other turing-machine-alike. If it did change the game for mobile AIs, we'd be able to simulate the effect on giant static hardware already.

Re:Until there is a robot in the kitchen (1)

slashchuck (617840) | more than 5 years ago | (#26513635)

Bob May, who wore The Robot's suit in the hit 1960s television show "Lost in Space," died Sunday at age 69.
Here is the story from AP. [google.com]

The Robot is best known for calling: "DANGER, Will Robinson". The actual voice recorded was that of the announcer for the show.

Fembots? (3, Funny)

Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507085)

Call me when there's a fembot that will bring pizza and beer (and er....other services) without being summoned to do so. Then I'll be all set to retire and contemplate truly meaningful things like how to more effectively eliminate lint and sweater pills. Oh, and mister designer...don't forget the MUTE button.

Re:Fembots? (1)

jomama717 (779243) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507481)

Clichébot?

Re:Fembots? (1)

slashchuck (617840) | more than 5 years ago | (#26513669)

Saturn's Children [amazon.com] by Charles Stross is a great novel about the adventures of a Fembot in a post-human future.

No NXT? (4, Interesting)

Virtualetters (980728) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507125)

The engineering introduction to programming course at my university uses Lego NXT robots as a mainstay. Having played around with them, I am amazed at the flexibility. Someone with a little time and dedication could make a pretty decent version of most of the robots in each of the videos. That said, I've seen some great videos of NXT robots this year and was a little disappointed to see none of them in the list. BTW, the Big Dog video's kick moment is probably the highlight of all. I was expecting a little tap but the kicker really goes all out and I almost feel sorry for him when the robot recovers so easily.

Re:No NXT? (1)

fatphil (181876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507199)

And I felt sorry for BigDog after that kick. Great piece of engineering. Let's hope it doesn't become intelligent enough to kick back!

BigDog is uber creepy (1)

spineboy (22918) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508791)

Something about the way it moves makes me want to burn and destroy it. Man that thing gives me the shivers. It looks like two guys in a horse suit, but facing each other.

It must inhabit the uncanny valley for me.

Re:BigDog is uber creepy (1)

fatphil (181876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509177)

I can see why you say that - it is certainly more than a bit creepy. I think it's not lifelike enough to have reached any uncanny valley for me. (I'm not sure I have one, I've never seen anything that inhabits it. Yet.)

Re:BigDog is uber creepy (2, Funny)

oever (233119) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509255)

You man like this [laughingsquid.com] ?

Re:No NXT? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26516283)

A fully loaded BigDog could take a kick on snow and ice something like a year ago. If that's the highlight of THIS year's video then it must be well behind the state of the art. Or there's no news, which I guess, is good news (no skynet yet.)

I for one... (1, Funny)

Vizzoor (777022) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507231)

welcome our new self-assembling, soccer-playing, all-terrain, cyborg overlords.

Strandbeesten (1, Offtopic)

oever (233119) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507235)

Theo Jansens Strandbeesten [strandbeest.com] are not mentioned. I'm reading his excellent book 'The Great Pretender' now. There he explains his dream to build autonomous beasts from PVC conduits. He is making good progress. Especially the smooth walking motion is impressive.
He did a talk [ted.com] at TED in 2007.

The Best Robots of 2008 (1, Offtopic)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507409)

Theo Jansens Strandbeesten [strandbeest.com] are not mentioned. [...] He did a talk [ted.com] at TED in 2007.

How odd, it's not a robot, and it's not from 2008, and it wasn't mentioned in The Best Robots of 2008.
I can't understand why!!!

Aside from the fact that you couldn't be more off topic if you tried, mad props to Theo, delusions of grandeur notwithstanding, his creations are amazing.

Re: The Best Robots of 2008 (0, Offtopic)

oever (233119) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507555)

I do not think that being off-topic will stop the post from getting +5 Interesting.
Why do you think Theo's creations are not robots? Where does it say robots have to use electrical circuitry?
Also, not all robots in the list are from 2008. BigDog was covered [slashdot.org] on slashdot in 2006.

Re: The Best Robots of 2008 (0, Offtopic)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507789)

I do not think that being off-topic will stop the post from getting +5 Interesting.

Karma whore :-|

Re: The Best Robots of 2008 (0, Offtopic)

naveenoid (1183365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508103)

Seconded! Jansen himself calls his works as "Kinetic Sculptures". Aside from the fact that they use natural dynamics of the mechanical structure, and are aided by the environment for their motion (wind/slopes etc). They are as much a robot as the average windmill. Parent is right though, they are pretty interesting.

Re:Strandbeesten (1)

ma11achy (150206) | more than 5 years ago | (#26514557)

Good lord, I read this as "he explains his dream to build autonomous breasts from PVC conduits.

I need to sort myself out :)

Robots can help us become more human (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26507261)

I believe in progress anointed by God in whose image we were created, except for most Italians, who are evil and bad and sinister!!! Robots can help us to perfect the human Spirit if they do not fall into the hands of the nefarious Italians. That is why Obama must defend our Fatherland against the Italian menace with automatic war robots. Who is with me?

There's been real progress (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507331)

Very nice. If you haven't been paying attention to Japanese hobbyist robotics, you may not have realized how far things have come. They're way beyond Lego Mindstorms. Humanoid toy-sized robots are going through obstacle courses. The robotic toys in the $100-$200 range are becoming quite good, too. WowWee Toys has a line of advanced robotic toys, including the first production fembot. [wowwee.com]

At the high end, there's Big Dog, of course. The successor to Big Dog is the Legged Squad Support System [wikipedia.org] , now in the bidding stage at DARPA. LS3 is "Big Dog on steroids". Big Dog was an experimental machine; the LS3 will be a combat-ready prototype. The specs for LS3 call for military temperature requirements, a quieter engine, more payload, faster running, longer range, operation in snow, sandstorms, and rain, and the ability to ford a rushing stream three feet deep. LS3 is intended to haul the heavy weapons of a squad just about anywhere an infantry squad can go.

All the technology is falling into place. The navigation and vision from the DARPA Grand Challenge, the success of the newer algorithms in machine learning, the balance and slip control of Big Dog, and the cost structure of the toy industry are coming together. We have not yet seen the "killer app", but I think that robotics is now where personal computers were in about 1976, after the Apple I but before the Apple II.

Re:There's been real progress (1)

naveenoid (1183365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508431)

All the technology is falling into place. The navigation and vision from the DARPA Grand Challenge,

No offense to DARPA, not all of the navigation and vision algorithms in those cars with a whole set of high speed computers are really practical for use on smaller home service robots. For one, they use mostly laser scanners fused with GPS data, not practical for home. The problems in home environments which are less dynamic than Darpa'esque environments, is that they typically require precision sensor technology and a whole lot more development in data fusion and in uncertain environment decision making. Conventional sensors for the home (ultrasonic, IR, vision etc.) all have limitations heavily fscking up the performance of the control algorithms. Developments are being made in this area though.

the success of the newer algorithms in machine learning,

What success? I do admit lots of cool stuff has been done recently. But machine learning is facing some strong limitations when compared with the abilities of biological systems in coping with unsupervised learning in uncertain and dynamic environments. Structured environments like searching the web are totally different to navigating a randomly cluttered room with your sensors at 50% efficiency (try navigating a typical bar while being drunk). Newer results in adaptive connectionist systems with evolutionary optimisation has some promise though. But neural networks have come a long way with not much resulting yet.

the balance and slip control of Big Dog,

...applies to quadrupeds with the similar mechanical characteristics. If you are trying to imply that the results are relevant to humanoids, I suggest you read up on the loads of material on everything from 3d linear inverted pendulum model to spin angular mommentum regulation and control for humanoids. The fundamental difference between quadrupeds and humanoids are those of humanoids frequently not having the freedom of undertaking static walking. Although I am curious to find out how they managed to stabilise the Big Dog from the kick scenario where it definitely loses static stability (Center of mass leaving the foot polygon).

and the cost structure of the toy industry

Irrelevant to the service robot industry. The development of advanced homeservice robots have few things in common with the toy industry. Except for trivialities like servos and interesting behavior control techniques like subsumption used in most toys, home robots share few parts in the same scale or scope as toys.

We have not yet seen the "killer app", but I think that robotics is now where personal computers were in about 1976, after the Apple I but before the Apple II.

This is spot on though. I personally feel the killer app will be precipitated by a combination of realisation of cost of human labour for mundane tasks along with the economics of the usage. I was until recently in a Korean Robotics R&D, where we typically calculated a vacuum cleaning robot to prove cost effective in 6 months of usage (initial cost of 400$ + power Compared with frequent manual vacuuming) for a typical apartment. This sort of calculation when tied in with mass manufacture shall break the killer app barrier.

Re:There's been real progress (2, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509217)

No offense to DARPA, not all of the navigation and vision algorithms in those cars with a whole set of high speed computers are really practical for use on smaller home service robots.

Vision works better on home service robots that it does outdoors. Outdoors, getting a long enough baseline for a stereo pair is hard, except through motion vision. Humans only have stereo out to a few meters, anyway. SLAM (Simultaneous Location and Mapping) for mobile robots is getting quite good. Willow Robotics demoed their system at RoboDevelopment a few months ago, and the latest issue of IEEE Trans. on Robotics, a special issue on SLAM, indicates how good that's become.

But machine learning is facing some strong limitations when compared with the abilities of biological systems in coping with unsupervised learning in uncertain and dynamic environments.

I recently went over to Stanford to see the CS229 project presentations [stanford.edu] , and it's very impressive what small teams of students are getting done in one quarter. Self-guiding robot helicopters, for example. The field has moved away from neural nets; Bayesian statistics, with real theory underneath, works better.

the balance and slip control of Big Dog, applies to quadrupeds with the similar mechanical characteristics. If you are trying to imply that the results are relevant to humanoids, I suggest you read up on the loads of material on everything from 3d linear inverted pendulum model to spin angular momentum regulation and control for humanoids.

Been there, done that, own the patent on legged slip control. [animats.com] For systems which really use dynamic balance, the number of legs doesn't matter all that much from an algorithm standpoint. In fact, most real progress has been made by first getting the one-legged case to work. Key insights: 1) balance has priority over movement, 2) slip/traction control has priority over balance, 3) legs need three joints, not two, so you can play with the force vector at ground contact independent of foot position, and 4) legs are viewed as assets to be deployed to manage traction, balance, and propulsion. "Gaits" are an emergent behavior, the state into which things settle down when movement is not disrupted.

Re:There's been real progress (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509251)

We have not yet seen the "killer app"

I think you're right, but I'd say it's very likely that the "killer app" will quite literally be a "killer app"... or at least an "app" that facilitates killing. There's tons of DARPA/DoD money going into this, and the sooner we get robosoldiers, the sooner we can have less casualties, hopefully on all sides. Or at least that will be the plan.

Re:There's been real progress (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 5 years ago | (#26510831)

Actually like the big dog, I think the killer app will not be killing machines, but machines to carry our crap and do the simple chores (like mowing, vacuming, sweeping, carrying laundry up and down the stairs.) will be the first real setups.

Of couse one could argue we don't get enough exercise as it is.

Re:There's been real progress (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#26512493)

Yeah, I agree. That's kind of what I meant by an app which facilitates killing. They're not going to do the actual killing, but they're going to make it a lot easier. (Or if you want to be a little less jaded, they'll help make our soldiers more effective - which certainly involves more than killing)

Re:There's been real progress (1)

diagonal_mambo (1265536) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509803)

I don't like these new fembots. They make me feel far creepier than polite society will generally allow me to feel...

Re:There's been real progress (1)

zobier (585066) | more than 5 years ago | (#26524413)

I so want a chevaline.

Error establishing a database connection (2, Informative)

ohnotherobots (1448571) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507341)

Oh no! They're taking over already!

Re:Error establishing a database connection (1)

j741 (788258) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507567)

Yep. It's been slashdoted

Please let's not exclude my personal favorite, (2, Funny)

WhatDoIKnow (962719) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507389)

the Adrienne Barbeaubot

Re:Please let's not exclude my personal favorite, (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507991)

the Adrienne Barbeaubot

Sparkimus Prime!!!

Industrial Robots (5, Interesting)

Dabel (573340) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507505)

Don't forget about industrial robots. While not garnering as much media attention as the robots in the link, today's industrial robots can pull off some amazing work.

4 robot coordinated system with 2 robots exchanging holding fixtures and coordinating with 2 more welding robots http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EK1ad4-gWM [youtube.com]

1 robot system taking human-readable commands from a linux based touchscreen and generating offsets and moves dynamically http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFSCm24O7lA [youtube.com]

(full disclosure - I work at the company, Automation IG [automationig.com] , that designed and built these robot cells)

Personnaly ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507547)

... I welcome our Dalek overlords.

Can't connect to database? (2, Informative)

windsurfer619 (958212) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507655)

The server seems to be running on a robot... and the robot has left the building. Impressive.

Best Robots? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26507689)

I nominate Keanu Reeves.

None of these compare to... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26507847)

GoogleBot!
Yes, i went there.

Needs more videos of Google servers running, server rooms as far as the eye can see.

Liberty Prime!!! (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507999)

What could be better than a giant robot [youtube.com] shooting lasers out of his face and trash talking to communists? Plus his voice sounds like Optimus!

More robots (1)

mephistophyles (974697) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508883)

Allow me to add a few, since I might know a thing or two about this subject. Some of you might remember Flame, a robot designed at the TU Delft, and being used to further understand human walking (he walks like we do, as opposed to for example Asimo...)

http://www.3me.tudelft.nl/live/pagina.jsp?id=c4fa06f1-b767-4a67-a19e-ea3356400f06&lang=en [tudelft.nl]

The nice people at DBL (Delft Biorobotics Laboratory) have built a next generation robot called TUlip

http://www.dutchrobotics.net
for those interested. That's one I worked on a little, so I might be a little biased in terms of how cool it is :-)

Some more cool robots we saw in China and elsewhere are:

The Cornell Ranger's record for longest distance walked
http://ruina.tam.cornell.edu/research/topics/locomotion_and_robotics/papers/CornellRanger/index.html [cornell.edu]

or maybe nexi?

http://robotic.media.mit.edu/projects/robots/mds/overview/overview.html [mit.edu]

Or take your pick from a variety in this list:
http://www.ri.cmu.edu/research_project_view.html?menu_id=261 [cmu.edu]

or this one

http://www.rec.ri.cmu.edu/project/index.htm [cmu.edu]

Republicans? (1)

meatmanek (1062562) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508983)

Did I miss something? Why are half of the front page stories tagged Republicans when they have nothing to do with republicans?

Re:Republicans? (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509319)

Yeah, the tags are unfortunately, still F'd. I wish they had a blog or something, because I'm curious about how their algorithm works (but too lazy to actually read the code). Hopefully /. is aware the tagging system still needs work.

Self-repairing robotic chair? (1)

Enleth (947766) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509363)

Isn't this obvious? They should give one to Steve Ballmer! He'll just throw it against the wall over and over instead of screwing things up and maybe MS will turn into a decent company, at last...

Re:Self-repairing robotic chair? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26514397)

Yeah, a moronic robot for a stupid jackass. Perfect match!

What's the point of a 'machine' that can reassemble itself? It can never have any good tolerances on the parts that do the trick. And you leave me 2 minutes alone with that 'chair' and it will never reassemble itself againg. What a waste of time.

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26509451)

What - no Summer Glau as Cameron in "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles"?

DARPA Grand Challenge? (1)

Garrett Fox (970174) | more than 5 years ago | (#26509651)

Has DARPA announced any plan for a follow-up to its Grand Challenge contest -- the one with the simulated city driving course?

A couple of weeks ago... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26510681)

...I was prepping a replacement Small Business Server 2000 machine following a power outage that took out the original server and blew the UPS, SCSI controller and one disk.

To install the core OS, SQL server, upgrade to IE6, install OS and other service packs and patches, I reckon I had to reboot around 12 times...

Oh...ROBOTS...Sorry!

My favorite robot of all time! (1)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 5 years ago | (#26512021)

Nobody can beat this robot for looks, deadliness or comic relief!

http://monsterscifishow.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/61979_summer_glau_-_unknown_photoshoot0001_122_1140lo.jpg [wordpress.com]

http://img133.imagevenue.com/img.php?loc=loc620&image=09741_Summer_Glau_2192_122_620lo.jpg [imagevenue.com]

http://img509.imageshack.us/my.php?image=summerglau1514gg2.jpg [imageshack.us]

Cameron terminating a bad Terminator in the future
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RGQGI7V8o8 [youtube.com]

Scary Robot
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fZN5-kHETc&feature=related [youtube.com]

"They knew where we live"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLCWTThe4Cs [youtube.com]

Cameron Seduces John
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiPGGzBUquU&feature=related [youtube.com]

Cameron Cuts Derek Off Because He Didn't Follow the Phone Security Code Protocol
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBDgWGs9Wdo&feature=related [youtube.com]

Would You Like A Bedtime Story?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEcJjq5ByiM&feature=related [youtube.com]

You lied to me
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OisxAXVAMEs&feature=related [youtube.com]

Cameron plays pool
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6t83BHB6OQ&feature=related [youtube.com]

BigDog + Skynet = ? (1)

1310nm (687270) | more than 5 years ago | (#26512613)

BigDog was the only one of those that really made me sit up and think, "That thing CANNOT become sentient, or we are DOOMED!"

What can you expect? (1)

Genda (560240) | more than 5 years ago | (#26513429)

Robots are pretty much where lasers were in the early 60s. Now lasers are used in fields of science, engineering, and day to day life that are pretty much beyond the wildest dreams of the scientists and engineers who were busy coaxing coherent light out of crystaline rods.

Industrial robots have been around for some time. Humanoid robots are about to become the next big thing. Exploratory robots, giving human beings unprecedented operational and experiential access to the vanishingly small, unprecedentedly large, remarkably distant, and environmentally extreme. As robots become more biological in nature, and human beings incorporate more and more synthetic augmentation, the line between us and technological progeny will soon blur.

Conspicuously missing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26514327)

Of course they forgot about the biggest robots of all, the liberal media swooning over Obama...

A self-healing chair? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26519621)

Probably designed at the behest of Balmer's underlings...

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