I'm in Portugal right now at the International Conference on Robotics and Intelligent Systems (IROS). There are some cool happenings going on in the land of robotics! Some highlights from the first day:
1) An Italian team of researchers has created an autonomous car that was able to drive from Rome to China (13000 km!). Its vision system is pretty advanced, but it's based entirely on cameras (so no expensive LIDAR), and it was able to perform incredibly well on every type of road condition, from dusty dirt roads with transport trucks kicking up the dust to night driving on a busy highway. People were even cutting the car off and it still handled itself fine. Really amazing stuff.
2) The number of robots that were used, and are still being used, in the Fukushima nuclear disaster is intense. You never really hear about this, but there is a massive project going on, using tele-operation, to explore and classify the site. There is even a large scale, remote operated construction crew, using large cranes and dumptrucks, without a single person having to be near the site for debris cleanup. They are projecting that it will take 40 years until the site is cleared up, so there is a lot of time for research and development of these robots.
3) The Aldebaran Nao is creepy. Seriously creepy. It's that little soccer humanoid picture here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nao_(robot)
It's adorable, it can talk and understand some voice commands, but it reminds me a lot of those talking turrets from Portal and I'm REALLY starting to think that they are going to be the silent partners in the robot apocalypse :-P But there are a few of them here and it's actually really cool to get to touch and interact with them
That's all from me!