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Video Friday: Penguins and Huskies

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Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

ICRA 2022: 23–27 May 2022, PHILADELPHIA
IEEE ARSO 2022: 28–30 May 2022, LONG BEACH, CALIF.
RSS 2022: 21–1 June 2022, NEW YORK CITY
ERF 2022: 28–30 June 2022, ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
RoboCup 2022: 11–17 July 2022, BANGKOK
IEEE CASE 2022: 20–24 August 2022, MEXICO CITY
CLAWAR 2022: 12–14 September 2022, AZORES, PORTUGAL

Enjoy today’s videos!


I’m not sure it’s geographically appropriate for a Husky robot to be this close to penguins in Antarctica, but on the other hand, who cares, because I am all in for robots and penguins.

The project consists of a hybrid (autonomous and remote-controlled) Husky UGV-based robot named ECHO that carries a variety of sensors including a camera and a radio-frequency-identification (RFID) antenna to read RFID tags from chipped penguins (the kind of chips that are also used to chip dogs and cats). With the RFID scanner, ECHO will scan penguins to assess their breeding status and survival success. Overall, the robot will be able to track individual penguins throughout their lifetimes, allowing researchers to gather data for behavioral and population dynamics research.

[ Clearpath ]

Snap has launched a little camera drone called Pixy. It’s nothing special, but that’s fine: It looks to be small, safe, and quite easy to use. And I really appreciate that this video seems to show actual footage from the drone, which is not fantastic, but totally workable.

Two hundred fifty U.S. dollars seems a bit steep, but perhaps the safe form factor and ease of use could make it worthwhile.

[ Pixy ]

This is pretty awesome—it’s a RoboCup standard platform event where the robots are operating fully autonomously. Watch right after kickoff as the robot in the black jersey (closest to the ball) books it off-screen to the left. As it turns out, she (her name is Sarah) went deep into the opponent’s half, where she camped out by the goal, in a perfect position to receive a brilliant pass.

[ B-Human ]

GITAI has already demonstrated its robotic arm inside of the International Space Station, and now it looks like the company is getting ready to work outside the station as well.

[ GITAI ]

Things that I want robots to do so that I don’t have to: waste-sorting.

Weird to have them call the robot both “she” and “unmanned” in practically the same sentence.

[ ZenRobotics ]

At Agility, we make robots that are made for work. Our expertise is marrying design, software, and hardware to build robots that are capable of doing limitless tasks as part of a blended human-robot workforce.

OK, I really want to know if Digit can use that step stool at the back of the trailer.

[ Agility ]

Zimbabwe Flying Labs’ Tawanda Chihambakwe shares how Zimbabwe Flying Labs started using drones for STEM programs and how drones impact conservation and agriculture.

[ ZFL ]

Robotics has the potential to revolutionize our daily lives, enabling humans to do things never thought possible. SRI is at the forefront of developments that have and will continue to redefine manufacturing, medicine, safety, and so much more.

[ SRI ]

A drone show from CollMot, which seems to use much larger drones than anyone else.

[ CollMot ]

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Apple’s Next Trick: Letting You Borrow Cables From Android Friends

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A photo of a USB-C cable

Photo: Sam Rutherford / Gizmodo

It might not seem like the needle-moving announcement that Apple would make. But thanks to a news bit from a trusted analyst, there’s hope on the horizon that someday soon, Apple iPhones and Android smartphones will stop being separated—by charging cables, at least. (Don’t expect any parity on messaging any time soon!)

This week on Gadgettes, we dive into the most recent Apple leaks. With WWDC 2022 fast approaching, we figured it’d be an appropriate time to round up some of what we’ve heard in the rumor mill.

In addition to the USB-C tidbit, there’s chatter about everything from what the Apple Watch Series 8 will be capable of to whether iOS 16 will see much of a significant bump. We’ll also get into some of the patents revealed over the past few weeks, including a Surface Pro-like keyboard for the iPad and a foldable iPhone with a color E Ink display.

Then, Sony does it again, grooving into our hearts with its new WH-1000XM5 headphones. The model name doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but you won’t care once you realize these are some of the best headphones money can buy. We’ll talk about why these headphones are worth their $400 price point. We’ll also get into the caveats of headphones like these and why the WH-1000XM5’s new folding mechanism might make you go for the last-generation model.

Finally, we’ll defend printers. We’ll explain why you might consider springing for an all-in-one printer for your at-home print shop. The compact HP Deskjet 6700 is an all-in-one that comes in a few colors and pairs rather nicely with the Amazon Basics laminator if you need to make reusable worksheets! HP also offers Instant Ink, which ships you ink cartridges so that you don’t have to worry about securing more when they run out.

Listen to this week’s episode of Gadgettes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Chromebook 101: how to change your Chrome OS channels and get unreleased features

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You might not know it from glancing at a Chromebook, but Google’s Chrome OS is in a constant state of evolution.

The operating system receives minor updates every two to three weeks and major releases every six weeks. And, at any given moment, Google’s staff is working on features and software enhancements that most people won’t see for a matter of weeks — or months.

Here’s a little secret, though: if you’re feeling adventurous, you can gain access to those unreleased enhancements. All it takes is the flip of a virtual switch in your Chromebook’s settings, and you’ll have all sorts of interesting new options at your fingertips.

First, it’s important to understand exactly what’s involved so you can make an educated decision about which setup makes the most sense for you.

Understanding the Chrome OS channels

Chrome OS actually exists in four separate development channels. The software you see on your Chromebook varies considerably depending on which channel you choose:

  • The Stable channel is the polished and ready for prime time version of the software that all devices use by default.
  • The Beta channel is updated weekly and receives new features about a month ahead of its Stable sibling.
  • The Developer channel is updated as frequently as twice a week and sees stuff that’s actively being worked on and has undergone only a small amount of testing.
  • Finally, the Canary channel is what Google describes as the “bleeding edge” Chrome OS path — a channel that receives daily updates prior to any widespread testing and can be accessed only by a Chromebook that’s switched into a special developer mode (which, somewhat confusingly, has nothing to do with the Developer channel).

The Stable channel is the safest option and what the vast majority of people should use — particularly those who need to know their computers will always work flawlessly without any hiccups or unexpected glitches.

If you’re feeling adventurous and don’t mind a bit of a risk, the Beta channel is a good way to get a peek at unreleased features without too much instability. The odds of running into something funky are certainly higher than with Stable, but, by and large, elements in Beta are fairly well-developed and just in the final phases of testing.

Most day-to-day users would be well advised to stay away from the Developer channel since it receives updates as they’re built and is quite likely to contain bugs. And, as for the Canary channel, if you’re not sure whether you ought to be using it, the answer is probably no.

Changing your Chrome OS channel

Once you’ve decided which channel you want to try, here’s how to make the switch:

  • Open your Chromebook’s settings.
  • Click About Chrome OS in the menu on the left, then click Additional details.

Click About Chrome OS in the menu on the left, then click Additional details.

  • Look for the category Channel and click the Change channel button. That’ll cause a pop-up to appear that lets you select the Stable, Beta, or Developer channel. (Canary, remember, is available only if your device is in Developer mode — a level of access that opens the door to more advanced forms of OS modification but also disables some of the software’s standard layers of protection. It requires several extra steps to enable and, again, isn’t advisable for most Chromebook users.)

Change channel menu

Choose the Stable, Beta, or Developer channel.

  • Click the channel you want, then click the blue Change channel confirmation button that appears.
  • Click the left-facing arrow at the top of the screen to get back to the About Chrome OS page. When you see the Restart button appear near the top of the page (it may take a minute or two), click it.

About Chrome OS page with Restart button

Hit the Restart button to complete the change.

And that’s it: as soon as your Chromebook finishes restarting, you’ll be on your new channel with all your accounts, files, and preferences in place just like you left them.

If you ever decide you want to move back to the Stable channel, repeat that same process and select Stable.

Change channel box with “Change channel and Powerwash” button.

If you change back to Stable, you’ll have to Powerwash your system.

Just note that moving in that direction — from a higher channel to a less experimental one — generally requires you to Powerwash your Chromebook. Powerwash means all of your information and data will be erased, and you’ll have to sign in anew and start over.

About ChromeOS box

Hit the Restart and reset button to finish the process of restoring the Stable channel.

The one exception: if your Chromebook is connected to a work- or school-based G Suite account, your data won’t be deleted and the change won’t take place immediately. Instead, you’ll have to wait until the lower channel catches up to the higher one in version number, which could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

Update May 20th, 2022, 9:30AM ET: This article was originally published on October 15th, 2019, and has been updated to account for changes in the OS.

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HP refreshes Spectre x360 laptop with Intel 12th-gen and Ryzen 5000 chips, Intel Arc GPU, beefed up webcam, and a quieter fan, starting at $1,650 (Scharon Harding/Ars Technica)

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Scharon Harding / Ars Technica:

HP refreshes Spectre x360 laptop with Intel 12th-gen and Ryzen 5000 chips, Intel Arc GPU, beefed up webcam, and a quieter fan, starting at $1,650  —  HP Spectre laptops try out Intel discrete graphics, boosted webcams, new hues.  —  HP has revamped its Spectre x360 lineup of convertible …

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