ROBOTICS NEWS: What's Trending in August 2019

Welcome to the first installment in our monthly series, what's Trending in Robotics News! We will cover all the breaking news, hot issues, trending stories, and cool stuff that is happening - or has happened - in the robotics industry. Let's see what caught our attention this month!

YouTube Fail: Website Mistakenly Removes Robot-Battling Videos

It looks like YouTube's internal protocols were a bit overzealous this week. The website's automated system is always on the lookout for any video classified as "animal cruelty" - for example, dog-fighting or similar practices.

However, the system went a little cuckoo last month and took down a whole bunch of robot fighting videos, as covered in places as varied as Endgadget, The Verge, and Vice. The system mistakenly put those videos in the category of animal cruelty, taking them down for a little while - and creating quite an uproar - before the uploaders raised enough of a stink. YouTube apologized and restored the videos.

It's a fascinating story. First, it underscores the need for human oversight of the YouTube oversight process. Second - as many people pointed out online - it seems to be a story that was quite ahead of its time. As robotics and artificial intelligence advances into new generations, will there come a time where humanity considers robots advanced to the point where they gain the same protections animals (and humans) do?

The Final Frontier: A Space Robot and DARPA Challenge

Imagine how this headline would have panicked the population during the cold war: Russian Robot Pilots Spaceship to Space Station. Well, that's what happened in August, as covered by the BBC, the IEEE journal, and elsewhere. Not to be outdone when it comes to robotics, the DARPA "Subterranean Challenge" - seeking out robotic solutions for underground mapping, navigation, and searching - took place during the week of Aug. 15-22. A Carnegie Mellon team came in first place.

Incredible to think how far we've come, in many ways. As we mentioned, imagine the Cold War-era panic - on both sides - that could have happened if news broke that Russian robots were piloting spaceships and American robots were crawling around under the Earth.

Now, it's looked on as a sign of progress. Also, it's intriguing to see the DARPA use of robots to explore the interior of our Earth; sometimes, we're often so focused on the stars, we forget what wonders might exist below our feet. Hopefully it isn't Morlocks.

Toga! Toga! Toga!: College Delivery Robots and Autonomous Vehicles

Imagine, a robot that could deliver you all the necessary supplies you need for college - junk food, coffee, toilet paper, pizza, even a book or two. That's the goal of a new startup, Starship Technologies. As covered in Futurism, CNET, and elsewhere, this startup aims to deploy autonomous delivery robots to campuses everywhere (starting with Purdue and the University of Pittsburgh this fall).

Elsewhere, robotic delivery continues to grow in scope as other companies develop and integrate autonomous tech into their operations:

Robotics is throwing a massive "speed bump" (pun intended) into traditional product delivery model. It shows how rapidly we're advancing to an automated delivery experience - in nearly every industry. Are you ready for it?

Elsewhere, the idea of "flying taxis" and "self-driving cars" is rapidly advancing into the realm of science fact. Take a look at these articles in Futurism on Volocopter (meant as an air helicopter ferry around cities) and in Digital Trends about Waymo's fleet of self-driving cars. We're coming to a point where human transportation will be in the hands of autonomous vehicles. Do you feel comfortable with traveling in this method?

Stand, Sit, Fetch. Good Robot!

Robo-dogs are on their way. A new robotic dog from Florida Atlantic University (named Astro, of course) can perform all sorts of dog-like functions, as well as follow the traditional commands. This story garnered attention from Mashable, and elsewhere. Another four-legged robot from ANYbotics - this one used for inspecting oil rigs - got unveiled at the World Robot Conference, earning coverage from Digital Trends and Robotic Gizmos. Also, there are new robot videos released from Unitree Robotics - which you can see here and here.

Brings a brand-new meaning to the phrase "man's best friend," huh? However, this means a lot more than companionship - these robotic dogs should also be classified as utilities and appliances. They can do so much more than fetch, play dead, and roll over. How would you see one of these integrating into your household? Oh, and how would REAL dogs treat their robotic brethren?

Eat my Robot Shorts! The Latest in Wearable Tech

Your wardrobe may be getting a high-tech upgrade sometime in the future. As covered by Futurism and Harvard, scientists in Cambridge have built "robo-shorts" to boost a wearer's walking or running stride (maybe this will improve our 5K).

Oh, and in so-weird-it-might-be-awesome news, Japanese scientists have created a robotic tail for humans, aimed at increasing balance while walking or climbing. The story got covered by The Guardian and Gizmodo.

Something to think about when you step outside for your next jog. Aside from us all coming closer to the Doc Ock origin story, wearable tech is coming closer and closer to helping all us out in our daily lives. How long before a company brings this stride-helping technology down to a price point where you see it in your average running or exercise store?

What's to Come?

Of course, that's only just a taste of all the robotics news out there, but these are fascinating stories. Robotics seems to be an ever-increasing presence in our daily lives - from wearable tech to product delivery. Some of our most popular social media outlets are even treating them as they would a living creature! It's intriguing stuff, and we'll be here next month - and every month - after that to deliver you the news you need to hear and see.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter to stay up to date on the latest news in the field.

Picture credit
Tech Xplore, Alex Dolce/Roscosmos/Yamen Saraiji/YouTube
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