Watch robots climb trees, helicopter in and sniff bugs

Kick off your three-day weekend with three videos of wacky things robots (and one gadget) can do.

Robots do the darndest things.

For your pre-long-weekend amusement, here are three videos of wacky things robots (and one gadget) can do.

First up: Treebot, the tree-climbing robot.

Yes, robots have climbed trees before, but Treebot is the first to do so without any help -- and to tackle trees that are complete strangers.

TreeBot's creators, Tin Lun Lam and Yangsheng Xu from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, presented their research at the International Conference on Robotics and Animation. In this video, you can see Treebot inch its way up thin stalks of bamboo as well as trees with much thicker diameters. You see it tackle trees that lean like the Tower of Pisa, and you hold your breath as it makes 90-degree turns onto branches. While it would best most humans any day, it appears to have the unfair advantage of eight appendages as opposed to our measly four.

Second is a rolling robot that can helicopter in at a moment's notice. Yes, the idea of transformers is not new, but a roller/chopper hybrid is.

The robot’s researchers, Alex Kossett and IEEE Fellow Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos of the University of Minnesota's Center for Distributed Robotics, are working on an upgraded version in which the robot can run on autopilot and figure out on its own how to get to its destination.

In this video, watch the little guy roll into view on two wheels, upright himself and lift off.

Our last gee-whiz gadget to send you off to Memorial Day could actually be helpful to you someday, so tuck it away in the back of your mind.

Like many useful gadgets these days, it's a handheld device. Unlike many useful gadgets these days, it can sniff out bed bugs. Literally.

The Bed Bug Detective -- modeled after canine bed bug detectives which can nose out bed bugs with 98% accuracy -- sniffs the air much the way dogs do. Sensors inside the device detect the three signatures of a bed bug's scent: a combination of pheromones, carbon dioxide and methane. It won one of Popular Science's 2011 Invention Awards.

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