Things to Know This Week: Gymnastics Robot and Self-driving Snowplows

Happy April Fool’s Day, the worst day to be in the news business or public relations field.

Why? Because most companies that attempt to write April Fool’s Day stories or come up with fake product announcements don’t really succeed with their humor, and any journalists that end up falling for it then look dumb by thinking that something that incredible really did happen. On the PR side of things, woe be to the  agency or company that makes an actual product announcement on this date, as then they end up fielding a lot of “Is this real?” and “Do you know what today’s date is?” types of emails and phone calls.

So, if you are out and about on the Internet today, don’t believe ANYTHING. Even if they say it’s real, just ask them to reconfirm it tomorrow.

Source: IHMC
Thing #1: Check out this awesome gymnastics-enabled robot concept
Down in Florida, the robotics group at the Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, aka IHMC, is working on a concept of a humanoid robot gymnast, named Nadia after famed Romanian gymnast Nadia  Comăneci from the 1976 Summer Olympics. Evan Ackerman from the IEEE Spectrum publication has a great interview with the team working on the project.
Thing #2: Help some kids get to the VEX Robotics World Championship
Next month the VEX Robotics World Championships occur in Louisville, Kentucky, and a whole bunch of teams from around the world are preparing to compete. Several teams have posted GoFundMe campaigns to help them get there, so if you have some extra money to spare to help train the next generation of robotics leaders (trust me, they’ll be needed), click the links below to help out.

The Da’ GOAT team from Petal, Mississippi is looking to raise $1,500.
The Chanclas from Gibson Middle School in Las Vegas is attempting to raise $13,500 (a second team is raising money to attend the CREATE U.S. Open Robotics Championship to be held later this week in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Two teams from Maine (the MSSM Penguins S and MSSM Penguins Z) are raising $3,000 to attend the championships.
A team from Kaunakakai Elementary School in Hawaii is trying to raise $10,000, as they were invited on short notice and needs the fundraiser to cover the full budget.
The Ultramagnus independent robotics team in Puerto Rico is attempting to raise $15,000 to be able to attend the competition.

Thing #3: Go back to college so robots can deliver you breakfast
Without trying too much to sound like one of those grumpy old men who would say, “When I was your age, I had to go downstairs to the dorm cafeteria in order to get breakfast!”, students at Northern Arizona University (NAU) can now receive breakfast orders via Starship Technologies mobile delivery robots.

Since launching at the end of January on George Mason University, Sodexo and Starship announced recently that an extra 1,500 breakfast orders have been delivered autonomously by students and others.

A Starship robot delivers breakfast to a Northern Arizona University student.

At NAU, each on-demand delivery costs just $1.99, and works in conjunction with the student meal plan. “I’m really excited for these robots!” said NAU student Josh Feygin, in a press statement. “Having the ability to get breakfast delivered right to my door simply with my meal plan will be a lifesaver for early classes and long days.”

A recent report from Research And Markets predicted a 49.5% compound annual growth rate from now through 2024 for the global autonomous delivery robots market, which means that maybe someday I’ll be able to get a robot to deliver me a bagel instead of having to drive to Panera on my own.
Thing #4: Fly to Winnipeg to see an autonomous snowplow
Today being April Fool’s Day, the spring for us in most of North America is sort of here, although we’ve had snow in April in New England a few times. But perhaps up in Winnipeg, Canada, the snow season lasts a little bit longer.

It’s good that the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport now has “Otto” working for them, the first autonomous airport snowplow in North America. A result of a partnership with Manitoba companies Northstar Robotics and Airport Technologies Inc., Otto is a specially designed ATI Snow Mauler configured to operate autonomously using Northstar Robotics technology. The plow can clear snow by following predetermined routes and the blade can be controlled at specific locations. Otto has 3D lidar and radar that can sense surroundings and detect obstacles, and includes a wireless emergency stop system.

“Launching North America’s first autonomous snowplow is a great achievement for Winnipeg Richardson International Airport,” said Barry Rempel, president and CEO of Winnipeg Airports Authority. “Our success is a direct result of bringing together partners who are committed to lead transportation innovation and growth.”
Thing #5: Chat with coworkers about this non-robot story

NASA Offers $19,000 to stay in bed for 60 days

Sign me up!
Thing #6: Read some REAL robotics news
Missed some of our awesome stories because you’re too busy building a real robot? Check out this list of some cool posts we’ve recently been writing:

Market for Commercial Drones to Nearly Triple by 2024, Research Says
Video: Watch a Robot Assist With Hurricane Disaster Cleanup
Play Ball! Robots Chalk Baseball Foul Lines for Fields
Singapore-Based Techmetics Brings 2 Service Robot Lines to the U.S.
ProMat 2019 Preview: 4 Can’t-Miss Sessions and To-Do Items
Robots Will Be Working in 50,000 Warehouses by 2025, Report Says

That’s it for the week, stay cool, warm or happy (or all three!)

Here’s my one “fake news story” for April Fool’s Day: Video: Humans Steal Robot Jobs
Things to Know This Week: Gymnastics Robot and Self-driving Snowplows