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April 11, 2011

Robot Block Party at Stanford; public invited

University researchers and Bay Area companies will demonstrate robotic technology, from autonomous cars to robotic arms for long-distance surgery.

By Melissae Fellet

Today's robotic technology looks nothing like Rosie, the hovering housekeeper from the animated series The Jetsons. The technology is hidden in a car that drives itself, a controller that helps gamers "feel" the road as their virtual car skids around a turn, and a mechanical arm that helps a doctor operate on a patient hundreds of miles away.

Visitors can interact with these robots at Stanford's second Robot Block Party on April 14. The robot demonstrations will run from 1 to 7 p.m. at the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab, 473 Oak Road, on the Stanford campus. The event is free and open to the public.

The Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory will bring demonstrations that help users experience a virtual world through touch – the same technology that helps doctors feel like they're cutting tissue when they perform surgery remotely. The autonomous car built by researchers at the university's Center for Automotive Research will also be on display and several Bay Area robotics companies will bring demonstrations.

The Center for Internet and Society sponsors the event as part of National Robotics Week, a week of programs around the country designed to raise awareness about robotics and spark children's interest in science, technology and mathematics.

About 2,000 people attended the event last year, including many children, said Ryan Calo, the director of the Consumer Privacy Project at the Stanford Law School and one of the event's organizers.

He estimates 12 to 15 robots will be at this year's block party.

Melissae Fellet is a science-writing intern at the Stanford News Office.




Dan Stober, Stanford News Service: (650) 721-6965,

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