11 cool robots you may not have heard of

What do Mars, the Terminator, an ostrich and hair-washing have to do with each other? Ask the robots

Robots, some with artificial intelligence and complex software, are handling some pretty cool and in some cases dangerous missions for their human overlords. Here we have a mix of robots that have flown under the radar and some that you'll likely be hearing more about in the very near future.

First up, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover is set to launch next week. The mobile robot will contain a ton of tools including a drill and robot arm that gather soil samples to look for evidence the Red Planet may have sustained some form of life.

Image: Reuters/NASA

Here Fujita Health University Professor Eiichi Saito wears a Toyota Independent Walk Assist robot that, once mounted onto a paralyzed human leg, will help the knee bend and facilitate natural walking. The robot is part of the Toyota Partner Robot series slated to be available to the public in 2013, according to Toyota.

Image: Reuters/Yuriko Nakao

Here a man stands on a two-wheeled Toyota Balance Training Assist robot, developed to support training for people with impaired balance.

Image: Reuters/Yuriko Nakao

President Barack Obama is shown here alongside Skrappy , a robot built from scrap lumber, road signs and metal by students at Bluestone High School in Skipwith, Va. Obama visited the school to celebrate its robotics team, which built Skrappy and competes worldwide in robotics contests.

Image: Reuters/Jason Reed

From PC World we hear about a joint project between the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) and MIT that hopes to reproduce all of the ostrich's abilities into the fastest-running robot ever built. The FastRunner uses a novel leg design that only needs one actuator per leg and has mechanical tendons. The bigger innovation of this design is that the legs can achieve a much larger stride, letting the bot hit speeds of 20 to 50 miles per hour.

Image: IHMC

OK, this robot is actually kind of stationary but was in the news recently anyway. Here we see a picture of a visitor taking a photo of the Terminator robot inside the house where actor, former champion bodybuilder and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was born, in the southern Austrian village of Thal. Schwarzenegger officially opened a museum dedicated to his life in the house in October.

Image: Reuters/Herwig Prammer

Honda's ASIMO can run and jump as well as pick things up and move them. Here it serves tea.

Image: Reuters/Siphiwie Sibeko

Panasonic's HOSPI-Rimo robot is a communications assistant system that features automatic movement and can facilitate conversations between people who are in separate places, such as when a doctor is in hospital and a patient at home. According to Panasonic, the robot can help people with limited mobility.

Image: Reuters/Kim Kyung Hoon

Here we see Panasonic's hair-washing robot doing business on a mannequin's hair. The robot was developed for those who have difficulty completing the task on their own. The process from washing to drying can be completed automatically using advanced robot fingers after the robot scans the user's head and recognizes its shape, the company said.

Image: Reuters/Kim Kyung Hoon

The bicycle-riding robot Murata Seisaku-kun has actually been around a few years, but it's gotten a little faster and more intelligent over time.

Image: Reuters/Kim Kyung Hoon

Panasonic's Evolta line of robots can swim, bike and run. The little bot has competed in an Ironman Triathlon and bicycled around the Le Mans track in France. What have you done lately?

Image: Reuters/Yuriko Nakao