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Robotics Science

The Best Robots of 2008 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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The Best Robots of 2008

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  • And will it run Linux?

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @01:09PM (#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.

  • Fembots? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Ritz_Just_Ritz ( 883997 ) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @01:10PM (#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.

  • No NXT? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Virtualetters ( 980728 ) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @01:14PM (#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.
    • by fatphil ( 181876 )
      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!
      • 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.

        • by fatphil ( 181876 )
          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: (Score:2, Funny)

          by oever ( 233119 )

          You man like this []?

    • 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.)

  • by Vizzoor ( 777022 )
    welcome our new self-assembling, soccer-playing, all-terrain, cyborg overlords.
  • Strandbeesten (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by oever ( 233119 )

    Theo Jansens Strandbeesten [] 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 [] at TED in 2007.

    • Theo Jansens Strandbeesten [] are not mentioned. [...] He did a talk [] 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: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by oever ( 233119 )

        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 [] on slashdot in 2006.

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

      I need to sort myself out :)

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @01:36PM (#26507331) Homepage

    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. []

    At the high end, there's Big Dog, of course. The successor to Big Dog is the Legged Squad Support System [], 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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)
    • I don't like these new fembots. They make me feel far creepier than polite society will generally allow me to feel...
    • by zobier ( 585066 )

      I so want a chevaline.

  • Oh no! They're taking over already!
  • Industrial Robots (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dabel ( 573340 ) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @01:56PM (#26507505) Homepage
    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 []

    1 robot system taking human-readable commands from a linux based touchscreen and generating offsets and moves dynamically []

    (full disclosure - I work at the company, Automation IG [], that designed and built these robot cells)
  • ... I welcome our Dalek overlords.

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

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

    The nice people at DBL (Delft Biorobotics Laboratory) have built a next generation robot called TUlip
    for those interested. Th
  • Did I miss something? Why are half of the front page stories tagged Republicans when they have nothing to do with republicans?
    • 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.
  • 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...

  • []

    Maybe it can't carry a payload, but it'll give you nightmares.

  • Has DARPA announced any plan for a follow-up to its Grand Challenge contest -- the one with the simulated city driving course?
  • BigDog was the only one of those that really made me sit up and think, "That thing CANNOT become sentient, or we are DOOMED!"
  • 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 l

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham