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Cutting-Edge Robots Show Off in Japan

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Boston Dynamics' RiSE 3 climbing robot

The RiSE 3 climbing robot could prove useful for surveillance or inspection purposes.

Boston Dynamics

Researchers from around the world are meeting at a conference in Kobe, Japan, to discuss recent advancements in robotics. Among those on display will be RiSE, a four-legged robot developed by University of Pennsylvania researchers that is capable of walking on the ground and climbing a tree or pole. RiSE uses tiny claws made from surgical needles to dig into a vertical surface.

Another robot that will debut at the conference is Adelopod, developed at the University of Minnesota. Adelopod is about the size of a video controller, and instead of using legs or wheels for propulsion, the robot flips itself over and over, using a pair of 12-centimeter arms. The tumbling mode of travel is simple, saves energy, and does not require complex hardware, the researchers say. The robot's small size also allows it to reach places other robots could not.

Researchers at the Institute of Automatic Control Engineering at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany have designed a robot capable of finding its way around a city without the use of global positioning systems or preloaded maps by asking pedestrians for directions and using gesture and voice recognition to interpret commands. The robot uses human tracking, obstacle detection, and map building to navigate through a city.

Boston University (BU) also has designed a robot capable of navigating a city, though it is much smaller. BU's Robotic Urban-Like Environment system allows cars to understand simple, high-level commands from humans. The miniature robotic cars can safely reach their destinations, move in the correct lanes, stop at red lights, and park on their own. "We wanted to give the robots the freedom to make choices by themselves as long as they are safe and accomplish whatever the human operator specified as a task," says BU professor Calin Belta.

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