Say goodbye to Willow Garage

Many employees of Willow Garage, which pioneered work in “open source” robotics including Personal Robot 2, have moved on, although the company continues to sell and support its robots.

7 Stories to read this weekend

The Internet Unpluggers, Somalia’s Pirate King, How Couchsurfing fell on hard times, Rock star scientist Pardis Sabeti, the rise of Robots and the fall of the House of Moon are all on the menu this week. Enjoy!

Blue River gets $3.1M for a weed-whacking robot

Blue River Technology is a startup that raised $3.1 million to take machine learning from Silicon Valley to the farming-focused Salinas Valley. It has built a robot that identifies and then kills weeds and hopes to reduce the use of pesticides in agriculture.

How to get a telepresence robot without NASA’s budget

Don’t have the $2.5 billion budget that Nasa spent to design, build and launch the Mars Curiosity rover? For a fraction of the price you can virtually be in two places at once thanks to telepresence robots for every budget, including those using iPads or smartphones.

5 Las Vegas startups you need to know

The Silicon Strip is coming along nicely, and although they’re mostly young and relatively unknown, Las Vegas’s startups aren’t hurting for good ideas. Some are even growing beyond their wildest dreams. Here are five of the city’s most-promising.

How to build a better Apple HQ, plus 4 other Apple stories to read today

Here’s our daily pick of stories about Apple from around the web you shouldn’t miss. Today’s installment: a more walkable, community-oriented Apple campus proposal, see which older Macs won’t update to Mountain Lion, Apple’s part in the mobile patent mess, and a future with Siri-powered robots.

This Russian mogul wants to be the Elon Musk of robots CEO Dmitry Grishin isn’t happy being one of Russia’s most successful internet entrepreneurs: now he wants to help a new generation of robotics companies, and is launching a fund with $25 million of his own money to try and kickstart a more ambitious future.

Research pinnacle met: Robot butler microwaves meals

If “Judgement Day” ever arrives and Terminator robots take over the world, at least we’ll eat well. Herb, the Home Exploring Robot Butler, is a Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute project that has both the sensors and the smarts to microwave a meal autonomously.

Forget drones, robot birds come home to roost

The search for robots that can jump, run and fly has become an obsession for the U.S. military, research scientists and a large population of the web. So when researchers showed off a robotic bird that can perch on an object, I was intrigued.

Microsoft software plus Kinect equals robotic butler

Microsoft made it easier to create robots on Thursday by launching the final release of its Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 4, which moves out of beta status. Using the Xbox Kinect accessory, the free software can power moving robots that can “see” and understand their surroundings.

Be nice to robots. They might be your neighbors soon

Are Cylons in our future? Robots can already perform complicated tasks — from navigating mountain roads to winning on quiz shows. Daniel Butler explains how science fiction is starting to look more like science fact.

Why the cloud has me fearing Wall-E more than Skynet

Everybody who has watched The Terminator knows about Skynet, the computing system that becomes self-aware and decides to destroy humanity. But I look at cloud computing and automated systems and I fear something much more depressing: the total leisure paradise of the movie Wall-E.

Oh look, there’s now an app store for robots!

There’s a new app store available for millions of devices, but it’s not built for iOS, Android, or Windows Phone handsets. As of Tuesday, the newest app store is for robots, and the first four apps are compatible with the estimated 6 million iRobot Roomba Vacuums.

Hey Google, have you seen the LEGO Street View robot?

For those who ever wanted their own Street View car, similar to Google’s camera on wheels used to capture images for Google Maps, there’s now a small robotic version made out of LEGOs. It’s another example of the growing opportunities that connectivity and sensors bring us.

How Kinect could turn smartphones into robots

Microsoft today adds Kinect support for its Robotics Developer Studio. Software and an SDK are helpful, but the real news may be in Microsoft’s 2010 purchase of Canesta, which has a chip-level pattern recognition solution. With it, Microsoft could shrink Kinect functionality to fit in smartphones.

Robots Rise With Phone Sensors, Android and the Cloud

Smartphones, tablets and Chromebooks had center stage at Google I/O, but don’t count out the robots! A 40-minute session captured on video explains how Google will help enable a new robotics era thanks to the Android platform, smartphone sensors and vast amounts of cloud intelligence.

Forget the Chromebook, Get Ready for Android Robots!

While the big news from Google I/O was today’s official launch of Chromebooks, other Google partners are thinking about new mobility paradigms. Take iRobot, the folks behind the Roomba. Their new Ava robot uses an Android tablet for sight, sound, speech and, of course, apps.

For My Next Trick: Talking to a Robot via Phone

My mobile profession combined with a robot addiction takes a new step forward thanks to Cellbots, a free Android application to control home robots. The software moves a connected robot through the phone’s touchscreen, by voice commands and even through a Google Talk session.

LEGO Launches Robot-Controlling Android App

There really is an app for everything now that LEGO has released software that turns an Android handset into a wireless remote control for robots. MINDroid uses a wireless Bluetooth connection and phone accelerometer to send commands to a robot with the flick of a wrist.