Marvin, Intel Labs Seattle's resident Johnny Five, just got an upgrade: It now has a sensor to detect the electric field that emanates from a power outlet—any power outlet, anywhere. When it needs to charge up, it uses its very talented claw to grab the power cord from its trunk, and then heads toward a wall. Along the wall, it sniffs for power. Once it gets near enough, it makes a few passes to locate the socket precisely, then sticks the plug right in (though in this particular video, I am not sure it goes in completely).
The reason it makes the series of passes is that there's only one sensor. Now that the developers have proved the concept, they plan to add more sensors that could, in an array, measure the precise location of the socket without all that sweeping. The robot does have laser range finders, to avoid hitting people and other annoying obstacles, but it didn't use the lasers to get to the power. You hear that, Copper Top? It can smell the succulent electricity crawling through the walls. [Intel Labs Seattle]