The past year was a good year for robotics with significant advances across many fields.
The biggest surprise may have been the many prototypes for household robots, including Toyota's Robot Maid, the Care-O-bot 3 by the Stuttgart Fraunhofer Institute and the B21 built by the Technical University of Munich in Germany, the Japanese Robocco, and Yasukawa Electric Corporation's 1.3-meter tall SmartPal V. While these robots are impressive, unfortunately none of them have made it beyond the prototype stage to date. More in the household robots thread.
More entertaining and already in stores are 2008's new toy robots. With the Femisapien, Bladestar, Tribot, Rovio and the Alive series robots toy maker WowWee has had an eventful year. Among many other robot toys, we were especially impressed with this year's i-SOBOT by Tomy and the Rapid Educational Development Robot RED by company Headstart as an innovative learning aid for toddlers.
Another field that has advanced significantly were robotic exoskeletons. Honda has demonstrated it's sit-on-top robotic legs and company Cyberdyne has become the first to mass-produce an exoskeleton, their hybrid assistive limb or HAL - for more exoskeletons have a look at last year's exoskeleton review.
2008 has also seen advances in many other areas, including rescue robots such as Robin Murphy's Survivor Buddy robot, or the 8m long hose-like robot specialized in rescuing victims in collapsed buildings, or military robots such as the Australia Defense department's SPIKER and the iRobot Negotiator.
A new and surprising development in 2008 was that robots are increasingly entering the arts scene. We reported on David Hanson and David Byrne's singing humanoid robot, the 15 m tall Liverpool robot spider, as well as robot actors performing on stage alongside regular actors in Taiwan and Japan.
Finally a few other robots that have have impressed, scared or amused us in 2008 were the remote controlled Japanese "shop-bot" TMSUK-4, a walking iPhone robot, and the rapid-prototyper robot "RepRap", which can create copies of itself.
What do you think have been this year's main advances and what should we look out for in 2009?