Robots that Live Among Us

Mars Rover

As we all learned from Terminator, artificially intelligent machines will one day conduct a systematic extermination of all human life forms and turn the Earth into one gigantic robot playground. But until that day comes, robots are our friends.

From heavy industry to the toy industry, devices that perform at least some automatic functions have been with us for quite some time. But in this roundup, we’ll look at robots that go far beyond the basics. Some benefit humanity as a whole. Some are already at work in the corporate world, handling complex or tedious tasks and situations that even a decade ago seemed impossible. Some point the way to a better future, others impress with their ability to mimic life forms, and still others make us feel a bit apprehensive as we come to grips with their tremendous power and potential.

No, there’s not a Terminator or Rosie the Robot in the bunch, though there is one that costs more than the annual economic output of some countries and is designed to function for a mere two years. And that alone is almost as frightening as the former. Or perhaps as ridiculous as the latter, depending on your perspective.


ASIMOASIMO

Cynics may suggest, and rightfully so, that he’s nothing but a walking, talking, dancing, jogging, stair-climbing, food-serving, object-grasping, human-mimicking Honda PR campaign. Yet the fact that ASIMO is able to do any of the above, never mind all of it, is reason enough for his inclusion in our robot roundup. Currently sporting a total of thirty-four degrees of freedom (and therefore no less than thirty-four servo motors) within his humanoid joints, the four-foot-tall, 119-pound ASIMO certainly looks the part in just about everything he does.

Perhaps one day in the next decade or two, if Honda engineers have their way, ASIMO will serve humanity as a fully autonomous caregiver or healthcare worker, rather than simply a sophisticated Honda advertisement. But he amazes even now, if just for his ability to allow us to glimpse into the future.


AutosubAutosub

Even as we get set to swing into the second decade of the 21st century, fully autonomous (self-governing) robots – beyond the assembly line type – remain a rarity. Some robots look like they know what they’re doing, but the vast majority merely behave as their human operators tell them to behave. One notable exception to the rule is the UK National Oceanography Centre’s Autosub 3, a seven-foot-long torpedo-shaped submersible that’s currently pulling duty in the Antarctic, mapping the seabed and charting the undersides of ice floes in a venture to potentially help determine the cause of melting ice.

“Autosub is a completely autonomous robot,” says Autosub team leader Steve McPhail. “There are no connecting wires with the ship and no pilot. Autosub has to avoid collisions with the jagged ice overhead and the unknown seabed below, and return to a predefined rendezvous point, where we crane it back onboard the ship.”

We wish the Autosub well on its lonely but oh-so-important journey. Its earlier sister ship, the Autosub 2, was lost forever when it malfunctioned under Antarctica’s Fimbul Ice Shelf in 2005.


BigDogBigDog

A 1992 spin-off of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, robotics research firm Boston Dynamics has since gained a number of high-end, high-tech playmates (the US Armed Forces, and Sony), and is now at the forefront of making creepy stuff that reminds us of scenes from various Star Wars movies. Though its four-legged concoction named BigDog doesn’t actually live among us because it’s still in the developmental womb, we felt it deserved mention here on account of its staggering potential and, well, watching it in action is way too cool.

BigDog is just one of several walking, animalistic robots Boston Dynamics has in its arsenal. Indeed, the company has just announced a new program whereby it will develop in conjunction with the US Military a shape-shifting centipede of sorts that deflates to squeeze through teeny-tiny spaces. Its name? The SquishBot. Check out BigDog and several other Boston Dynamics robots in action.


Kiva Mobile Fulfillment SystemKiva Mobile Fulfillment System

In some cases, a robot is only as good as the environment it’s dropped into. Fortunately, Kiva Systems has built some pretty darn good periphery around the pallet-moving robotic drive units that form the basis of its Kiva Mobile Fulfillment System. In a Kiva-powered warehouse, the goods reside in the center of the floor in shelving units, and humans are stationed on the perimeter. When an order is received, the Kiva robots spring into action and move, via a series of bar codes stuck on the floor and a wi-fi communications network, to position themselves under the racks containing that order’s merchandise. They then lift the rack and transport it to the human worker, who utilizes a series of scanners and lasers to choose the correct items from the rack. Once the item is scanned and verified, the Kiva robots automatically move the racks back to their original home. How efficient is Kiva? Efficient enough that businesses such as Walgreens, Staples, and online shoe retailer Zappos.com have become Kiva converts.


M-2000iA M-2000iA

Robotic arms and cranes aren’t exactly new to the industrial world. But one that can lift more than a ton of dead weight is. In its M-2000iA/1200, Michigan-based FANUC Robotics has created what it claims is the “world’s largest and strongest six-axis robot” with the “longest reach and strongest wrist” yet developed. Designed for such tasks as accurately positioning automotive vehicle bodies and assembling heavy machine tool components, the unit is intended to replace manually controlled cranes. And, of course, it will be the muscle in the upcoming robot uprising, where crazed machines will wreak untold havoc on the human population of earth.

Features

From picking to pollinating, agribots are pushing farming into the future

Farming is becoming increasingly challenging. To deal with environmental pollution, labor shortage, and other major issues, agricultural scientists are turning to robots and AI.
Emerging Tech

This spider robot moves around to keep the plant on its head alive

Inspired by a dead sunflower, the founder of the robotics company Vincross modified his company's spider-like robot so that it could care for plants by moving to the sun and monitoring water levels.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Laptop screen extenders and self-healing tents

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix in July, from ‘Arrested Development’ to ‘Mad Men’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in July 2018, from ‘Coco’ to ‘Jurassic Park’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Cars

From a bad battery to a crash, Virginia Tech’s automated car beat all challenges

Eight colleges across America were chosen to compete in a three-year challenge to build an autonomous car. Sponsored by General Motors and SAE, the AutoDrive Challenge offers college students the chance to create a Level 4 autonomous…
Smart Home

The Brava Oven uses light – and seemingly magic – to cook. It changes everything.

The creators of the Brava Oven knew that there had to be a better, more efficient way of cooking, and they set out to find it. The Brava, which cooks with light, was born, and their invention will turn everything we know about cooking…
Smart Home

Clean your home for cheap with these awesome Prime Day vacuum deals

Modern technology has made keeping a clean home a little bit easier, and now that tech is getting cheaper too. For Prime Day 2018, Amazon is slashing the prices of many of our favorite vacuums, some of which are of the robot variety.
Web

Looking for a deal or job without Craigslist? These are your 6 best alternatives

Whether you are tired of Craigslist or simply looking for more exposure on the dining room table you're trying to sell, here are some more websites like Craigslist that might have what you're looking for.
Cars

First self-driving shuttle coasts into New York’s Times Square

On July 17, Coast Autonomous, a new entry in the self-driving vehicle market, kicked off a day of demonstrations of its autonomous P-1 Shuttle on Broadway in New York’s crowded Times Square.
Social Media

What is Reddit? A beginner’s guide to the front page of the internet

So, what is Reddit exactly? Here, we breakdown the terminology, perks, and various inner workings of everyone's favorite social platform. Understanding the self-proclaimed "front page of the internet" has never been so easy.
Photography

How Huawei and Leica made a camera phone so good, we ditched our DSLR

What makes the Leica-designed Huawei P20 Pro camera so good? We traveled to Leica’s HQ in Wetzlar, Germany to hear it from the source. In short, it took a lot of experience, technology, and passion.
Wearables

At least one new Galaxy Watch may upstage the Galaxy Note 9 on August 9

Samsung may introduce a sequel to the Gear S3 smartwatch in 2018, but this time it may have a different name or even multiple versions. Rumors are spreading about a Galaxy Watch coming alongside the Galaxy Note 9.
Smart Home

Brew it fast, hot, and flavorful with our favorite coffee makers

Whether you're looking for a simple coffee maker to get you through the morning or a high-end brewer that will impress your taste buds and your friends, you'll find some of the best coffee makers around on this list.
Music

A wealth of rich tunes: Here are the best songs about money

There may not be as many songs about money as there are songs about love, but it's a close second. If you're looking for a skrilla-inspired playlist, check out our picks for the best songs about money.
Emerging Tech

Moving around in zero gravity is hard. MIT’s solution? Spider-Man’s web shooter

Researchers from MIT have been researching ways for astronauts to easily move around in microgravity. One solution is that they can use Spider-Man-style web shooters to pull themselves around.
Emerging Tech

World’s first VR-augmented waterslide is totally unnecessary, but also amazing

An amusement park in Germany unveiled the world's first waterslide that requires riders to wear a virtual reality headset. Here's what went into making this waterlogged VR dream a reality.
Emerging Tech

Rolls-Royce is creating a fleet of robotic snakes and beetles to repair planes

Researchers from Rolls-Royce are creating snake and insect-swarm-inspired robots that are designed to crawl inside airplane engines to carry out inspections and perform maintenance.
Emerging Tech

12 new moons were discovered orbiting Jupiter, and one’s an ‘oddball’

Jupiter's got 12 new moons. Well, not exactly. Those dozen moons have, of course, always been in Jupiter's orbit, but it was only this week that researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science announced their discovery.
Emerging Tech

New VR horror game gets scarier if your heart rate isn’t fast enough

In new VR game Bring to Light, players can strap on a heart rate monitor to personalize the fear factor. Get too comfortable, and the game’s A.I. will know to ramp up the terror.
Emerging Tech

The UN and Yale unite to build a ‘smart’ tiny house for the future

In an effort to create more sustainable and affordable housing for future populations, the United Nations and Yale University recently teamed together and created an environmentally minded tiny house.
Emerging Tech

Man vs. machine: An A.I. algorithm attempts to break a world speed record

A new machine learning algorithm created at Switzerland’s EPFL is being used to design what its creators hope is the world's fastest bicycle. It will attempt a world record later this year.
1 of 2