ROBOTICS NEWS: What's Trending in July 2021

Welcome to the 22nd installment 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 July. Let's see what caught our attention this month with the trending news in the robotics field for July 2021.

Fashion Sense

Our first piece of trending news in the robotics field for July 2021? Check out this a remarkable story covered in ZDNet, Mashable, Yahoo Finance, and Engadget: MIT's "robot valet" is here to help people dress. Check out the links for some incredible videos of the robot in action. This development could be big news for the infirm or people with limited mobility. How else could you see these wonderfully nimble, helpful robots help individuals?

A Pepper Downtown?

Some unfortunate news from the industry, covered in The Verge, RoboHub, IEEE Spectrum, and The Robot Report: Softbank Robotics Europe, one of the more prominent robotics companies in the world, is going through a significant "workforce reduction" to its company. In fact, it's laying off around 40% of its entire workforce. That's a shocking cutdown for one of the industry's more famous manufacturers, spurred on by the big price tags and relative lack of success for the company's Nao and Pepper robots. Do you think this is just a one-off problem for the industry—or a sign of future foundational problems to come?

Adapt and Survive

Per TechXplore, Berkeley Engineering, Futurity, TechCrunch, and SlashGear, there's no terrain this robot can't handle! A team of experts from Carnegie Mellon, UC Berkeley, and Facebook joined up to create a robot that can zip through even the harshest terrain. Created by the Chinese company Unitree, this robot features a "self-learning" system to make it move. What kind of environments would you like to see this sort of robot explore?

Let's Play a Game!

Imagine how disappointed a robot will be when they find that the princess is in another castle? Covered in Gizmodo, IEEE Spectrum, CBS News, and TechXplore, and, there's now a robotic hand out there that can play (and apparently dominate) Super Mario Brothers. This is a fun little story to think about for the future of gaming! Will robots get allowed into e-sports matches now?

Hoopin' Robots

How's this for a sharpshooter? At the Tokyo Olympics, a basketball-playing bot turned into Steph Curry. Check it out on TMZ, NBC Sports, Mashable, and The Huffington Post. How long do you think it will be before we see a full-robot basketball game?

What's New in the Industry?

How about some quick hits from around the industry: 

  • From Interesting Engineering and Reuters—there's a new foam out there that allows robots to self-repair. One step closer to The Terminator becoming real!
  • Go, Gadget, go. There's an "Inspector Gadget"-like robotic arm going to the International Space Station. Read more in, Gizmodo, and Digital Trends.

What's to Come?

There is a lot of news out there—but these are the stories that caught our eyes this month. If we could give one big theme for the month, it would be "adaptability." This month, we see a whole lot about how robots are adapting to the world around them—and how they're helping humans adjust to a "new normal." For those infirm humans that might have trouble dressing, the "robot valet" can help them look sharp for the public; another robot arm is helping humans conquer "the final frontier" of space. For robot-kind, we see all sorts of adjustments to make them even more human. There's a foam material that helps them "feel" and new innovations that allow them to walk like humans; researchers now have the technology to allow robots to adapt and stroll over challenging terrain across the world.

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

Picture Credit: AFP / UBTECH / University of Maryland
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