ROBOTICS NEWS: What's Trending in January 2021

Welcome to the sixteenth installment (and first of the new year!) in our monthly series, What's Trending in Robotics News! We cover all the breaking news, hot issues, trending stories, and cool stuff that's happening - or has happened - in the robotics industry.

There were plenty of amazing things happening in the robotics industry throughout January. Let's see what caught our attention this first month of 2021 in robotics!

Highlights from CES

Let's start with some of the highlights from CES (the industry-favorite tech show). Forbes and CNET gave some excellent overviews of the show, and there are plenty of other standouts, too:

  • Business Insider and Popular Science covered the robot butlers from Samsung (talk about Ask Jeeves, huh?). "Handy" the robot earned the most coverage; this helpful household robot has a "gripping mechanism" to move objects around and even pour a glass of wine. Cheers to Handy!

The expo also featured the LG robot, Sony drone, and oodles of other robotics innovation. Which one of these robotics breakthroughs was your favorite? Which one do you see catching on with the public?

Empathy for the Robots

A robot that feels empathy? It's here. Researchers at Columbia now have a robot that shows "basic empathy." In this case, the developed robot could predict the moves of a fellow robot - the first steps towards intelligence that could eventually lead to a robot predicting and understanding people's actions in a specific situation. This fascinating development got coverage in EngadgetThe Next WebCnetTechXPloreInteresting Engineering, and Slashgear.

"Empathy" is a buzzword in many different factors these days - diversity and inclusion efforts, ways to grow understanding between political differences, et cetera. If robots can learn empathy, after all, maybe it could grow among humans? That's a nice thing to think about for the new year.

Cold as Ice-bots

Ice robots might sound like a bad SyFy network movie, but they're coming closer to reality. Covered in FreeThinkSyFy (of course), IEEE SpectrumDigital TrendsInteresting EngineeringFuturism, and Boing Boing, scientists are developing the idea of "ice robots" for universal exploration; these robots would use ice to build several of their functional parts to keep going and exploring. Imagine an alien seeing an ice robot speeding around some distant planet in the future. What other elements do you think scientists could use for deep-space robot exploration?

Gone Fishin'

Finally, let's go under the sea! Covered in New AtlasInteresting EngineeringThe Next Web, and Hackaday, scientists are developing schools of fish-like robots to swim around the waters and search out environmental hazards. Talk about synchronized swimmers! It's great to see that scientists aren't just looking to develop tech for new worlds - they're also looking out for our very own oceans, too.

What's New in the Industry?

How about some quick hits from around the industry: 

  • Bam! How about a robotic chef for your cooking pleasure? Covered in NewAtlas and Digital Trends, the Moley robotic kitchen is ready to cook for you at the low, low price of $340K. 

What's to Come?

Of course, there is a lot of other news out there - but these are the stories that caught our eyes this month. The theme for January 2021? How about "rebirth"? After a very long - and very trying - 2020, it's nice to see that the new year's off to a flying start in the robotics industry. The innovations coming out of CES show a lot of promise, and with everything from ice robots to empathetic robots making their way onto the scene this month, we've got a lot of cool stuff to look out for. It's very nice to see after a truly long year. Let's hope it keeps going! 

One more thing, readers - if you have anything that we should add-in for the next edition, let us know! What caught your attention in the robotics world throughout January? Comment below, and we might feature it in our next issue!

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

Picture Credit: Harvard SEAS / GRASP Lab / Samsung
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