5 insanely cool robots you'll desperately want (but never be able to afford)

Wanna see a robot the size of a couch cushion pull a pickup truck? Admit it, you do!
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

As Uncle Ben warned us all, "With great power comes great responsibility". YouTube sometimes seems like the living embodiment of this warning, containing an overwhelming amount of video power that can (and has been) abused.

I'm guilty of this. The last time I turned to YouTube for article material, I wound up completely and totally ignoring my responsibilities here at ZDNet Government, my responsibility to readers to help them parse the world of politics and technology, and instead gave into my lust for rocket-powered Christmas trees.

See also: 11 completely crazy, totally twisted, deeply disturbing, over-the-top holiday hacks

Gallery: 5 insanely cool robots

Time has passed and I think I've watched enough rocket-tree videos to last me at least a few seasons. Instead, I've recently come across some amazing videos of incomprehensibly cool (and very, very real) robots doing some awesomely slick things.

Because I'm on a big "responsibility kick" today, I'm going to tell you that these videos are promotional pitches that iRobot uses to try to convince military, government, and big business to buy their mini-Terminators. Even so, oh-my-god I want these things (and so will you).

SUGV (Small unmanned ground vehicle)

Here's a video describing the SUGV, a robot designed to go into tight spaces and harm's way. The narrator is completely over-the-top and for some reason, the phrase "man-packable" just seems oh, so wrong. In any case, watch the SUGV push itself into tight spaces.

Next: an iPad-controllable submarine »

« Previous: Small unmanned ground vehicle


Ok, so this device is insane. SeaGlider is an unmanned underwater vehicle that can be launched in the ocean and run -- on its own -- for nearly a year. It can dive down to about 3281 feet. Every so often, it comes back to the surface, makes a sat-phone call, and phones home to report its finding and get new instructions.

This video shows the SeaGlider, and even shows scientists using an iPad to control it. Simply awesome!

Next up: couch cushion-sized robot pulls a truck...

710 Warrior

Wanna see a robot the size of a couch cushion pull a pickup truck? Admit it, you do! The Warrior is a configurable robot (basically a Lego Mindstorms for those with Bill Gates's or Uncle Sam's budget).

Next: Life-saving robot in a backpack »

« Previous: an iPad-controllable submarine


If you've followed military robotics at all, you're familiar with the PackBot. This device can be carried in a backpack and deployed anywhere a remote view or touch might be helpful or necessary.

There's no directly available count of the number of PackBots who have died for their country, but they've certainly saved soldiers' and law enforcement officers' lives.

Next up: The Negotiator...

The Negotiator

Finally, there's The Negotiator. For some reason, when I clicked on the video, I expected to see a robotic version of Kevin Spacey going up in some hostage-taker's face and negotiating for prisoners' freedom.

In reality, The Negotiator is a small form-factor robot that negotiates its way through tight spaces, to help soldiers get a better view of threats that might be hiding from them. It may not be Kevin Spacey cool, but it's still pretty neat.

By the way, I have no affiliation with iRobot, other than having read Asimov as a kid. That, along with Heinlein, warped me beyond all recognition. My poor parents. They had no idea what good science fiction did to my otherwise innocent mind.

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