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    Octopus-Inspired Robots Can Grasp, Crawl, and Swim

    Video of a robot developed by The BioRobotics Institute in Italy, which explores high-dexterity soft-bodied robots that mimic the movements of an Octopus. It's not just the form of the robot that takes inspiration from Octopuses, but also the way its limbs are controlled. From IEEE Spectrum: "Rather than relying on top-down instructions from the central nervous system, many of an octopus’s movements happen almost spontaneously–the result of the physical interplay between the animal’s body and its surrounding environment." Read more about this robot and its biomimicry lessons here.

    Tested Builds: Perfect Grade Gundam, Part 1

    Welcome to another week of builds! We're tackling a new type of kit this week: gunpla! And for our first Gundam build, we're going big with a Perfect Grade Zeta Gundam at 1/60 scale. Norm is joined by Sean Charlesworth, Frank Ippolito, and special guest Danica Johnson to work together and build this mecha! (This first video is available for everyone--watch the rest of the build by signing up with the Tested Premium member community!)

    Hands-On with DJI's Phantom 4 Quadcopter Drone

    We go hands-on with DJI's latest quadcopter, the Phantom 4! The newest Phantom drone improves on last year's model with three big features: much longer battery life, active obstacle and subject tracking, and a high-speed sport mode. We chat with DJI about how these features work and then put the drone in the sky for a test flight!

    Boston Dynamics Demos Next-Gen Atlas Robot

    Google-owned Boston Dynamics introduces the newest robot to stress test our empathy toward humanoid machines--this new Atlas survives bullying by walking away. From Boston Dynamics: "A new version of Atlas, designed to operate outdoors and inside buildings. It is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. It uses sensors in its body and legs to balance and LIDAR and stereo sensors in its head to avoid obstacles, assess the terrain and help with navigation. This version of Atlas is about 5' 9" tall (about a head shorter than the DRC Atlas) and weighs 180 lbs." We saw the previous Atlas platform up-close at last year's DARPA robotics challenge finals; its impressive engineering served to highlight the gulf between its abilities and the physical motions we take for granted.

    Soft Robotic Gripper Demonstrated at EPFL

    From Switzerland's EPFL: "Soft electronics are changing the way robots can touch. EPFL Scientists have developed a new soft robotic gripper -- made out of rubber and stretchable electrodes -- that can bend and pick up delicate objects like eggs and paper, taking robotics to a whole new level." The gripper uses electroadhesion (electrostatic forces) to mimic muscle functions, which you can read more about here.

    Testing SAFE Plus Stabilization for RC Aircraft

    If you've ever flown a fixed-wing RC model with artificial stabilization such as SAFE or WISE, then you know that these systems are not some magic wand that prevents all crashes and makes new pilots expert flyers overnight. Artificial stabilization is merely a useful training tool. When used correctly, it can significantly shorten a rookie pilot's learning curve—and perhaps help avoid some carnage along the way.

    Artificial stability systems continue to become more sophisticated and capable. The SAFE Plus (SAFE+) system installed in the Hobbyzone Sportsman S+ model is a prime example. This system is unique in that it utilizes GPS and a compass in order to realize heretofore unseen capabilities in fixed-wing models. In some cases, those new capabilities address shortcomings that I found in other stability systems.

    My original plan for this article was to exercise the various features of SAFE+ and report how well it performs. I'm still going to do that. Yet, as I spent more time flying the Sportsman S+, I slowly began to realize that artificial stability has turned a very significant corner. I think that these systems which are meant to assist new flyers could actually make learning more difficult and confusing for some pilots. I'll explain my reasoning for that opinion as well.

    Why GPS and Compass?

    The core functionality of a fixed-wing stability system is to know what straight and level flight is and then command the model to get there when asked. If a pilot gets disoriented or puts the airplane in a bad attitude, the system will execute recovery maneuvers and save the day. The pilot can then resume control with no harm done. One problem that I've found with these systems is that they still require the pilot to execute turns to keep the model in sight. Even a few seconds of unsure hesitation on the controls could be sufficient to send the perfectly stabilized model flying off into the horizon. That's one reason why it is still a good idea to have an experienced pilot on hand to coach you through those first awkward steps.

    This GPS module permits the SAFE+ system to overcome the shortcomings of other fixed-wing stabilization units.

    By integrating GPS and compass into SAFE+, the dreaded "fly away" scenario is mitigated. We've become accustomed to (and perhaps dependent on) the GPS and compass-enabled features in multi-rotors. By knowing where the model is and which way it is pointing, multi-rotors can automatically hold their position in the sky when the wind blows or return to their takeoff location with the push of a button. SAFE+ brings similar capabilities to fixed-wing aircraft.

    Meet the Yuneec Typhoon H 4K Camera Drone

    We check out the new Yuneec Typhoon H drone, an RC hexacopter with camera features to rival DJI's Inspire 1. The Typhoon H has a 4K camera mounted on a gimbal that can spin 360 degrees, landing struts that move out of the way, and several automated flight features. Plus, its price isn't that bad either!

    Watch: New Underwater Drone Flies and Swims

    From Rutgers University's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering: "Part submarine, part aircraft, Rutgers University researchers have developed a drone that is just as at home underwater as it is flying through the air. " The Office of Naval Research is funding Rutgers in the development of this drone--dubbed a SubUAS--which could be used for search and rescue missions as well as monitor oil spills and detect underwater mines.

    Making a Working BB-8 Droid Replica!

    Ever since BB-8 first made its appearance in the first Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser, droid builders have been trying to figure out how to make their own working replica. We visit the shop of Mike Senna, veteran robot builder, to follow his progress creating his own BB-8.

    Meet Pleurobot, an Amphibious Salamander Robot

    We meet Pleurobot, a Salamander-like robot that can both walk on land and swim in the water (with a wetsuit!) Kishore, our new science correspondent, chats with professor Auke Ijspeert of the EPFL about how Pluerobot's movements were programmed and how biorobotics engineers studied the physiology of salamanders in making this robot.

    Awesome BioRobots Inspired by Animal Movements!

    Roboticists from Switzerland's EPFL institute bring us four awesome robots that are designed to mimic the movements and gait of animals. We chat with these biorobotics researchers about the lessons learned from studying snakes and quadrupeds, and how their robots can be used in practical situations. Plus, these robots are actually pretty cute, and their lifelike movements make great animated GIFs!

    MIT's Hermes Remote-Controlled Robot

    From MIT: "Researchers from MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering have designed an interface that takes advantage of a human's split-second reflexes, allowing a humanoid to maintain its balance and complete tasks." The platform translates human-controlled movements from an exoskeleton to the robot, while providing physical feedback to the controller to adjust positioning and weight for maintaining balance.

    Show and Tell: Remote Controlled Bionic Bird

    Remember the Tim Bird toy from way back? Its successor is the Bionic Bird, a remote-controlled ornithopter that flaps its wings to flight. This crowdfunded toy was created by the son of the original Tim Bird inventor, and works great indoors. It's kind of like a toy bat!

    Roboticist Mark Setrakian's Mesmerizing Axis Robot

    For those of you who watched BattleBots, we hoped you noticed one of the coolest robots on the show that never entered the combat arena. Roboticist (and previous BattleBots competitor) Mark Setrakian lent his beautiful Axis robot to the production to use as the trophy podium. We chat with Mark about this mesmerizing robot and his animatronics work!

    Behind the Scenes of the BattleBots Production

    The BattleBots season finale is tonight, and we were on location during the filming of the final match-ups. Here's what you didn't see on TV. We chat with some of the competitors after their matches, learn how they prepare and repair their bots, and stick around for the unaired grudge matches!

    10 Incredibly Charming Home Robots

    One of the promises that science fiction made to us was that we would have a little more help around the house in the future - in the form of robots. The mechanical man was intended to lift our burdens and take away our need to dirty our hands with menial labor. Obviously, we're still washing dishes and walking the dog, but home robots are starting to hit the market, starting with the wildly successful Roomba vacuum in 2002. Today, we'll share ten cute and clever robots that are just waiting for you to take them home.