Jesusrollerbladinginspandexchrist-alive. I've watched this video of a robot jedi—making all kinds of objects float across complex paths in midair—about ten times, and I still can't believe what I'm seeing. But it's 100% real, and as impressive as BigDog.

The Airbot doesn't use any magic, just a computer-controlled gimbaled air jet, "powered by a 620kPa using a direct current motor-controlled valve." Which to me sounds like magic, but whatever.

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It has been developed at the University of Illinois by Aaron Becker and Robert Sandheinrich, helped by professor Timothy Bretl. The air-stream can lift any spherical and non-spherical object up to 188 grams and 97mm in radius. That includes a ping-pong ball, a bottle of water, an apple, an orange, or an onion—which will get peeled too.

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It seems like an April's Fool, but the "Automated Manipulation of Spherical Objects in Three Dimensions Using a Gimbaled Air Jet" was officially presented at IROS 2009, The 2009 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent RObots and Systems. According to their research paper, it could be used to sort small parts or handle delicate objects in production lines. [University of Illinois via IEEE via BotJunkie]