A Robot That Takes Surer Steps Using "Chaos Control"

For conscious, biological beings, walking comes easy. But the process of lining up one step after another across varying and uneven terrain is no stroll through the park. Just ask a prosthesis tech fitting a fabricated leg to an amputee or a roboticist trying to teach a humanoid robot to walk; recreating human gait and all the variations thereof is a huge technical challenge. To that end, researchers in Gottingen, Germany have developed a six-legged walking robot that can autonomously switch between different gaits depending on terrain and conditions.

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A Customizable, Anatomically Correct Robotic Girlfriend With Multiple Personalities

Just a few blocks away from CES, at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, innovation took a different form as the world's first commercially available life-sized AI robotic girlfriend enjoyed her big coming out party.

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Robotic Knee Helps Perfectly Healthy Runners Run Even Better

Attention cyborg wonks and lazy people: Japanese scientists at Tsukuba University have created a motorized knee that you can attach to your leg to increase your muscle power and running speed. The 11-pound kit's weight is shared by an exoskeleton-like attachment for your leg and a power source that's carried in a small backpack. But here's the best part: the device is not designed with any kind of rehabilitation or handicap-assisting function in mind; it's simply to make it easier for regular folks to run faster!

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Robovie-II, the Robot That Helps You Buy Groceries

The ease and variety of online shopping enabled by the first dot-com explosion cast technology as the killer of in-store retail. But in Japan, with its aging population and unique consumer culture, technology facilitates grocery shopping, in the form of retail assistance robots like Robovie-II. Part of a larger network of sensors and wireless devices, Robovie provides assistance to elderly shoppers making their rounds.

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Pneumatic Ball-Levitating 'Bot Preps Produce, Wins at Beer Pong

Using powerful air jets and complex algorithms, "robo-air" system makes objects appear to defy gravity.

Using an air jet to make a ball appear to levitate is an old physics lab trick; the air rushing around the ball traps it in a low-pressure pocket. But guiding "floating" balls through an obstacle course of hoops, making asymmetrical objects like apples and water bottles float as carefree as perfect spheres, or launching balls across a room with precision accuracy? That's impressive.

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Optical Sensors in Robots' Skin Give Them A Softer Touch

Whether they are assisting the elderly, or simply popping human skulls like ripe fruit, robots aren't usually known for their light touch. And while this may be fine as long as they stay relegated to cleaning floors and assembling cars, as robots perform more tasks that put them in contact with human flesh, be it surgery or helping the blind, their touch sensitivity becomes increasingly important.

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Video: Improvising Jazzbot Jams With Humans, Really Swings

Advances in robotics have lead to automatons that can do everything from ski to open doors to help the elderly.

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Robotic Arm Opens Doors For the Wheelchair-Bound

For people confined to wheelchairs, the proliferation of ramps has greatly enhanced their mobility. Unfortunately, opening doors remains an omnipresent, and frustrating, challenge. Oddly enough, opening doors also presents a serious impediment for anthropomorphic robots. Now, robotics engineer Erin Rapacki has solved both problems with a single stroke.

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Roboticists Want to Make You an Electric Car Customized for Your Personal Commute

Carnegie Mellon researchers have created a guide to customized car technologies for individual drivers

Drivers who want to know energy tradeoffs between gas guzzlers and electric cars may find some help at the ChargeCar project, where researchers have begun investigating how to customize electric vehicles to meet individual commuting needs. A smart power management system could even boost electric vehicle efficiency and extend battery life.

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Robotic Surrogate Takes Your Place at Work

Having one of those days where even a hearty bowl of Fruit Loops and Jack Daniels can't get you out of bed? A telepresence robot can come into the office for you, elevating telecommuting to a decidedly new level. The somewhat humanoid 'bots, produced by Mountain View, California-based Anybots, are controlled via video-game-like controls from your laptop, allowing you to be "present" without actually being in the office.

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Robotic Pathologist Performs Precise, Clean Autopsies on Humans

Dr. Michael Baden, Meet Your Replacement :  University of Bern, via New Scientist
Autopsies, for all the useful information they provide, have significant downsides. They are often upsetting to the deceased's family, they prevent people from receiving certain kinds of religious burials, and they leave a bit of a mess. To correct for those problems and more, a team at the University of Bern, Switzerland, has developed a robot that can perform virtual autopsies.

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A Look At Japan's Retro-Future

Those Robots Are Still Nicer Than Nuns :  via Pink Tentacle
As much as we love the actual future here at Popular Science, we love the past's vision of the future almost as much. So we basically freaked out when our good friends over at Pink Tentacle discovered this spread from a 1969 issue of the Japanese magazine Shonen Sunday.

These pictures show a predicted 1989 where computers have changed how we live. The above photo depicts a classroom full of children learning on computers, watching a video of a teacher, and receiving beatings from enforcement robots.

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University of Maryland's $500 Maple-Seed UAV Takes To the Skies

Last year, after untold millions of dollars, DARPA failed to renew a Lockheed program to design a UAV based on a maple tree seed. While that program, backed by tons of cash and one of the world's largest aerospace companies, amounted to bupkis, a University of Maryland project to create a maple seed UAV has finally accomplished what DARPA and Lockheed couldn't.

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Robot Skier Kills the Bunny Hills, Not Ready For Black Diamond

While it lacks the subtle charm of Alberto Tomba, this robot is just as much at ease flying down a slalom course. Designed by Bojan Nemec of the the Jozef Stefan Institute in Slovenia, the robot utilizes two computers to stay upright and pointed downhill.

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Tiny Fire Spy Recon Bot Lets Firefighters See Inside The Blaze

If knowing is half the battle, then firefighters waging war on a blaze start at a serious disadvantage. A lack of information concerning what’s going on inside a fire means firefighting personnel often must speculate which way the fire is moving, where the hottest spots are, and most importantly, where people might be trapped by the flames. The Fire Spy Robot hopes to tip the scales back in firefighters’ favor by providing valuable intel from inside infernos even while helping to extinguish them.

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