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Year of robots (2018): Boston Dynamics, Baxter and others



Depending on your in the future, 2018 either brought us closer to salvation with the help of robots, or brought us closer to death with the help of robots: where some see the end of meaningless work, others see the end of humanity, also meaningless. (By the way, we are in the former camp.) Whatever your attachment to machines, this year has become great for robotics, which continues to happily roll in the face of falling prices, better software and hardware, and rapid growth in demand from industry.

Considering that that time of year has come again, we have compiled a list of the most important moments in robotics in 2018, starting with the ongoing revival of SpotMini Spotlight Boston Dynamics and ending with the rapid rise and fall of the home robot.

Robot Dog Boston Dynamics finally released

After taking a quick break from uploading videos of his humanoid Atlas robot performing a flip, Boston Dynamics announced that one of its cars, the four-legged SpotMini, would finally go on sale in 2019. Now the question arises: what do you do with a robot that can fight with people who own sticks? One idea might be to load it with cameras for security checks or to inspect construction sites. Be that as it may, SpotMini's upcoming career in the real world is very important for robots of all kinds, who are struggling to break free from factories and laboratories to walk among us.

Goodbye Baxter, gentle giant among robots

Alas, with the beginning of the career of one robot, the other ends. In October, Rethink Robotics announced that it was taking shape, which means that its most famous offer, Baxter, is awaiting retirement. It is difficult to overestimate the impact that Baxter had on robotics — because of its low price and ease of use, it has become a platform for research at universities around the world. Inevitably, however, another more advanced platform will take its place. But let's extend our hand to Baxter, the robot who launched a thousand discoveries.

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Darpy's robots go underground

Baxter had the luxury of relatively clean, dry, climate-controlled surroundings, but not for the next Darpa robotic test machines (the same variety of tests that gave us unintentionally hilarious bipedal landing faces of 2015). This year, the Pentagon's long-range exploratory wing described in detail an exhausting underground passage through caves, tunnels, and bunkers. Unlike previous tasks, teams will be able to deploy many robots that work together to overcome one of the most brutal environments on Earth.

Robots rest in Airbnbs

Even robots need a random scene change. This year, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have booked their rooms for robots at Airbnbs. The rooms were rented to teach robots to manipulate objects in unfamiliar surroundings. Because teaching a robot to understand things in the laboratory simply will not help: for machines to work well in the real world, researchers must teach them to recognize objects on an unfamiliar background, such as a patterned carpet. And yes, if you're interested, the owners of Airbnbs were notified in advance that their tenants were robots. And yes, they got along great.

Scientists help robots develop Oddities suggest

Even more news in the world of robotics, researchers continued to make headway in a strange area known as evolutionary robotics. The idea is to check the "suitability" of randomly generated parts of the robot, such as legs. Limbs that move most efficiently through a simulated material, such as gravel, are “divorced” with other high-performance ones. In the end, it is very similar to natural selection, which often develops fancy machines. This is a potentially powerful way of developing new robots with features that human designers would never have dreamed of.

Robotics face a major security challenge.

This year, researchers took control of a botanist named Herb2. This would not be news if they had not done so from all over the country, using the operating system of the robot and its non-existent security. ROS is just that: users must set their own security measures. But now that ROS has become omnipresent, particularly in laboratories, there are concerns that the field of robotics is facing a security crisis.

Home robot, where are you?

2018 was supposed to be the year of social robots, friendly cars that read the weather for us and make appointments. There was Jibo, a stationary robot who could dance, and Kuri, a kind of R2D2 who roamed the house. But as soon as they arrived, home robots disappeared. So where are the useful robots that science fiction promised us for so long? Part of the problem is that they just don’t do Much at the moment, and the other part – you expect too much from them. But all this may soon change.

Smart robots are those who leave the Earth.

However, this year there was nothing terrible and gloomy in the world of robotics. Just a few days after Thanksgiving, the newest Martian NASA called InSight landed on the Red Planet. Robot mission? To explore the depths of Mars, to find out what it's made of – literally. So how to make sure your billion-dollar spacecraft gets there without polluting the solar system? You start by keeping the robot insanely clean here on Earth.


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