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Robots in 2014: the six most exciting robots of the past year

Nick Barber | Jan. 2, 2015
Robots are not looking to take over, but to work alongside us; making our jobs and lives easier, or at least more entertaining. We'll take a closer look in our 2014 robot review.

Staying in Japan these humanoids prove that sometimes making a robot look like a human is just a little bit creepy. These two for example are tour guides at a museum in Tokyo. While this one, is a research project from Toshiba and can perform sign language.

Best robots 2014: Toshiba's research project
It's quite difficult to make a very human like movement. If you speed it too fastit does vibrating or such. If the robot looks like a human being and does some slight, unnatural movement it makes you feel scared.

Like other humanoids, the skin is made of silicone. Robots like these have been shown in Japan for more than 10 years, but progress is slow and they have yet to find mainstream commercial applications.

Best robots 2014: BrainOS
One of the big drawbacks of robots is having to program them. The process can often be tedious and just wouldn't fit with most people's lifestyles. US startup Brain Corporation is looking to change that with a robot that can learn. Inside this iRover robot is the bStem developer kit that runs BrainOS. Here's how it works - first a user drives this robot around an obstacle course and after just one lap, the robot will have learned which obstacles to avoid. Projects like BrainOS put robots one step closer to making decisions like humans.

While some groups work on perfecting the brain of robots, a European research group is concentrating on the robot's body. Roboy has 3D printed bones and joints and springs for muscles. They give the robot fluidity and human like movement. The work is part of a wider European research project called Myorobotics, which aims to create robots that are cheaper to build and safer to be around.

This year we saw a number of instances where robots were used to teach and excite students about science, technology, engineering and math. At MIT mechanical engineering students capped off their semester with a final exam in the form of a robotics competition. Or how about these high school students who joined 70,000 others around the world the in the FIRST robotics competition. They were given a kit of parts and had six weeks to build a robot that could pick up, toss and pass a ball to another robot. While still in Japan, Murata trotted out its latest trick performing robots. These robotic cheerleaders use a variety of sensors to balance atop a ball while executing a choreographed routine. The cheerleaders joined other balancing robots in what Murata hopes is a way to inspire students to purse STEM careers.

Best robots 2014: NASA's Robotnaut 2
NASA's Robonaut 2 on the ISS orbiting the Earth got an upgrade this year...legs. Since arriving on the International Space Station in 2011, R2 has been put through a series of increasingly complex tasks to test the feasibility of a humanoid robot taking over the routine and mundane chores on the space station. Another NASA robot will help exlore the surface of the moon in 2018.


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