Tag Archives: 2016

#437935 Start the New Year Right: By Watching ...

I don’t need to tell you that 2020 was a tough year. There was almost nothing good about it, and we saw it off with a “good riddance” and hopes for a better 2021. But robotics company Boston Dynamics took a different approach to closing out the year: when all else fails, why not dance?

The company released a video last week that I dare you to watch without laughing—or at the very least, cracking a pretty big smile. Because, well, dancing robots are funny. And it’s not just one dancing robot, it’s four of them: two humanoid Atlas bots, one four-legged Spot, and one Handle, a bot-on-wheels built for materials handling.

The robots’ killer moves look almost too smooth and coordinated to be real, leading many to speculate that the video was computer-generated. But if you can trust Elon Musk, there’s no CGI here.

This is not CGI https://t.co/VOivE97vPR

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 29, 2020

Boston Dynamics went through a lot of changes in the last ten years; it was acquired by Google in 2013, then sold to Japanese conglomerate SoftBank in 2017 before being acquired again by Hyundai just a few weeks ago for $1.1 billion. But this isn’t the first time they teach a robot to dance and make a video for all the world to enjoy; Spot tore up the floor to “Uptown Funk” back in 2018.

Four-legged Spot went commercial in June, with a hefty price tag of $74,500, and was put to some innovative pandemic-related uses, including remotely measuring patients’ vital signs and reminding people to social distance.

Hyundai plans to implement its newly-acquired robotics prowess for everything from service and logistics robots to autonomous driving and smart factories.

They’ll have their work cut out for them. Besides being hilarious, kind of heartwarming, and kind of creepy all at once, the robots’ new routine is pretty impressive from an engineering standpoint. Compare it to a 2016 video of Atlas trying to pick up a box (I know it’s a machine with no feelings, but it’s hard not to feel a little bit bad for it, isn’t it?), and it’s clear Boston Dynamics’ technology has made huge strides. It wouldn’t be surprising if, in two years’ time, we see a video of a flash mob of robots whose routine includes partner dancing and back flips (which, admittedly, Atlas can already do).

In the meantime, though, this one is pretty entertaining—and not a bad note on which to start the new year.

Image Credit: Boston Dynamics Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots

#437857 Video Friday: Robotic Third Hand Helps ...

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

ICRA 2020 – June 1-15, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
RSS 2020 – July 12-16, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
ICUAS 2020 – September 1-4, 2020 – Athens, Greece
ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan
ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colorado
Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

We are seeing some exciting advances in the development of supernumerary robotic limbs. But one thing about this technology remains a major challenge: How do you control the extra limb if your own hands are busy—say, if you’re carrying a package? MIT researchers at Professor Harry Asada’s lab have an idea. They are using subtle finger movements in sensorized gloves to control the supernumerary limb. The results are promising, and they’ve demonstrated a waist-mounted arm with a qb SoftHand that can help you with doors, elevators, and even handshakes.

[ Paper ]


Fluid actuated soft robots, or fluidic elastomer actuators, have shown great potential in robotic applications where large compliance and safe interaction are dominant concerns. They have been widely studied in wearable robotics, prosthetics, and rehabilitations in recent years. However, such soft robots and actuators are tethered to a bulky pump and controlled by various valves, limiting their applications to a small confined space. In this study, we report a new and effective approach to fluidic power actuation that is untethered, easy to design, fabricate, control, and allows various modes of actuation. In the proposed approach, a sealed elastic tube filled with fluid (gas or liquid) is segmented by adaptors. When twisting a segment, two major effects could be observed: (1) the twisted segment exhibits a contraction force and (2) other segments inflate or deform according to their constraint patterns.

[ Paper ]

And now: “Magnetic cilia carpets.”

[ ETH Zurich ]

To adhere to government recommendations while maintaining requirements for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Yaskawa Motoman is now utilizing an HC10DT collaborative robot to take individual employee temperatures. Named “Covie”, the design and fabrication of the robotic solution and its software was a combined effort by Yaskawa Motoman’s Technology Advancement Team (TAT) and Product Solutions Group (PSG), as well as a group of robotics students from the University of Dayton.

They should have programmed it to nod if your temperature was normal, and smacked you upside the head while yelling “GO HOME” if it wasn’t.

[ Yaskawa ]

Driving slowly on pre-defined routes, ZMP’s RakuRo autonomous vehicle helps people with mobility challenges enjoy cherry blossoms in Japan.

RakuRo costs about US $1,000 per month to rent, but ZMP suggests that facilities or groups of ~10 people could get together and share one, which makes the cost much more reasonable.

[ ZMP ]

Jessy Grizzle from the Dynamic Legged Locomotion Lab at the University of Michigan writes:

Our lab closed on March 20, 2020 under the State of Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order. For a 24-hour period, it seemed that our labs would be “sanitized” during our absence. Since we had no idea what that meant, we decided that Cassie Blue needed to “Stay Home, Stay Safe” as well. We loaded up a very expensive robot and took her off campus. On May 26, we were allowed to re-open our laboratory. After thoroughly cleaning the lab, disinfecting tools and surfaces, developing and getting approval for new safe operation procedures, we then re-organized our work areas to respect social distancing requirements and brought Cassie back to the laboratory.

During the roughly two months we were working remotely, the lab’s members got a lot done. Papers were written, dissertation proposals were composed, and plans for a new course, ROB 101, Computational Linear Algebra, were developed with colleagues. In addition, one of us (Yukai Gong) found the lockdown to his liking! He needed the long period of quiet to work through some new ideas for how to control 3D bipedal robots.

[ Michigan Robotics ]

Thanks Jesse and Bruce!

You can tell that this video of how Pepper has been useful during COVID-19 is not focused on the United States, since it refers to the pandemic in past tense.

[ Softbank Robotics ]

NASA’s water-seeking robotic Moon rover just booked a ride to the Moon’s South Pole. Astrobotic of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been selected to deliver the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, to the Moon in 2023.

[ NASA ]

This could be the most impressive robotic gripper demo I have ever seen.

[ Soft Robotics ]

Whiz, an autonomous vacuum sweeper, innovates the cleaning industry by automating tedious tasks for your team. Easy to train, easy to use, Whiz works with your staff to deliver a high-quality clean while increasing efficiency and productivity.

[ Softbank Robotics ]

About 40 seconds into this video, a robot briefly chases a goose.

[ Ghost Robotics ]

SwarmRail is a new concept for rail-guided omnidirectional mobile robot systems. It aims for a highly flexible production process in the factory of the future by opening up the available work space from above. This means that transport and manipulation tasks can be carried out by floor- and ceiling-bound robot systems. The special feature of the system is the combination of omnidirectionally mobile units with a grid-shaped rail network, which is characterized by passive crossings and a continuous gap between the running surfaces of the rails. Through this gap, a manipulator operating below the rail can be connected to a mobile unit traveling on the rail.


RightHand Robotics (RHR), a leader in providing robotic piece-picking solutions, is partnered with PALTAC Corporation, Japan’s largest wholesaler of consumer packaged goods. The collaboration introduces RightHand’s newest piece-picking solution to the Japanese market, with multiple workstations installed in PALTAC’s newest facility, RDC Saitama, which opened in 2019 in Sugito, Saitama Prefecture, Japan.

[ RightHand Robotics ]

From the ICRA 2020, a debate on the “Future of Robotics Research,” addressing such issues as “robotics research is over-reliant on benchmark datasets and simulation” and “robots designed for personal or household use have failed because of fundamental misunderstandings of Human-Robot Interaction (HRI).”

[ Robotics Debates ]

MassRobotics has a series of interviews where robotics celebrities are interviewed by high school students.The students are perhaps a little awkward (remember being in high school?), but it’s honest and the questions are interesting. The first two interviews are with Laurie Leshin, who worked on space robots at NASA and is now President of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Colin Angle, founder and CEO of iRobot.

[ MassRobotics ]

Thanks Andrew!

In this episode of the Voices from DARPA podcast, Dr. Timothy Chung, a program manager since 2016 in the agency’s Tactical Technology Office, delves into his robotics and autonomous technology programs – the Subterranean (SubT) Challenge and OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET). From robot soccer to live-fly experimentation programs involving dozens of unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), he explains how he aims to assist humans heading into unknown environments via advances in collaborative autonomy and robotics.

[ DARPA ] Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots

#437851 Boston Dynamics’ Spot Robot Dog ...

Boston Dynamics has been fielding questions about when its robots are going to go on sale and how much they’ll cost for at least a dozen years now. I can say this with confidence, because that’s how long I’ve been a robotics journalist, and I’ve been pestering them about it the entire time. But it’s only relatively recently that the company started to make a concerted push away from developing robots exclusively for the likes of DARPA into platforms with more commercial potential, starting with a compact legged robot called Spot, first introduced in 2016.

Since then, we’ve been following closely as Spot has gone from a research platform to a product, and today, Boston Dynamics is announcing the final step in that process: commercial availability. You can now order a Spot Explorer Kit from the Boston Dynamics online store for US $74,500 (plus tax), shipping included, with delivery in 6 to 8 weeks. FINALLY!

Over the past 10 months or so, Boston Dynamics has leased Spot robots to carefully selected companies, research groups, and even a few individuals as part of their early adopter program—that’s where all of the clips in the video below came from. While there are over 100 Spots out in the world right now, getting one of them has required convincing Boston Dynamics up front that you knew more or less exactly what you wanted to do and how you wanted to do it. If you’re a big construction company or the Jet Propulsion Laboratory or Adam Savage, that’s all well and good, but for other folks who think that a Spot could be useful for them somehow and want to give it a shot, this new availability provides a fewer-strings attached opportunity to do some experimentation with the robot.

There’s a lot of cool stuff going on in that video, but we were told that the one thing that really stood out to the folks at Boston Dynamics was a 2-second clip that you can see on the left-hand side of the screen from 0:19 to 0:21. In it, Spot is somehow managing to walk across a spider web of rebar without getting tripped up, at faster than human speed. This isn’t something that Spot was specifically programmed to do, and in fact the Spot User Guide specifically identifies “rebar mesh” as an unsafe operating environment. But the robot just handles it, and that’s a big part of what makes Spot so useful—its ability to deal with (almost) whatever you can throw at it.

Before you get too excited, Boston Dynamics is fairly explicit that the current license for the robot is intended for commercial use, and the company specifically doesn’t want people to be just using it at home for fun. We know this because we asked (of course we asked), and they told us “we specifically don’t want people to just be using it at home for fun.” Drat. You can still buy one as an individual, but you have to promise that you’ll follow the terms of use and user guidelines, and it sounds like using a robot in your house might be the second-fastest way to invalidate your warranty:


Not being able to get Spot to play with your kids may be disappointing, but for those of you with the sort of kids who are also students, the good news is that Boston Dynamics has carved out a niche for academic institutions, which can buy Spot at a discounted price. And if you want to buy a whole pack of Spots, there’s a bulk discount for Enterprise users as well.

What do you get for $74,500? All this!

Spot robot
Spot battery (2x)
Spot charger
Tablet controller and charger
Robot case for storage and transportation

Photo: Boston Dynamics

The basic package includes the robot, two batteries, charger, a tablet controller, and a storage case.

You can view detailed specs here.

So is $75k a lot of money for a robot like Spot, or not all that much? We don’t have many useful points of comparison, partially because it’s not clear to what extent other pre-commercial quadrupedal robots (like ANYmal or Aliengo) share capabilities and features with Spot. For more perspective on Spot’s price tag, we spoke to Michael Perry, vice president of business development at Boston Dynamics.

IEEE Spectrum: Why is Spot so affordable?

Michael Perry: The main goal of selling the robot at this stage is to try to get it into the hands of as many application developers as possible, so that we can learn from the community what the biggest driver of value is for Spot. As a platform, unlocking the value of an ecosystem is our core focus right now.

Spectrum: Why is Spot so expensive?

Perry: Expensive is relative, but compared to the initial prototypes of Spot, we’ve been able to drop down the cost pretty significantly. One key thing has been designing it for robustness—we’ve put hundreds and hundreds of hours on the robot to make sure that it’s able to be successful when it falls, or when it has an electrostatic discharge. We’ve made sure that it’s able to perceive a wide variety of environments that are difficult for traditional vision-based sensors to handle. A lot of that engineering is baked into the core product so that you don’t have to worry about the mobility or robotic side of the equation, you can just focus on application development.

Photos: Boston Dynamics

Accessories for Spot include [clockwise from top left]: Spot GXP with additional ports for payload integration; Spot CAM with panorama camera and advanced comms; Spot CAM+ with pan-tilt-zoom camera for inspections; Spot EAP with lidar to enhance autonomy on large sites; Spot EAP+ with Spot CAM camera plus lidar; and Spot CORE for additional processing power.

The $75k that you’ll pay for the Spot Explorer Kit, it’s important to note, is just the base price for the robot. As with other things that fall into this price range (like a luxury car), there are all kinds of fun ways to drive that cost up with accessories, although for Spot, some of those accessories will be necessary for many (if not most) applications. For example, a couple of expansion ports to make it easier to install your own payloads on Spot will run you $1,275. An additional battery is $4,620. And if you want to really get some work done, the Enhanced Autonomy Package (with 360 cameras, lights, better comms, and a Velodyne VLP-16) will set you back an additional $34,570. If you were hoping for an arm, you’ll have to wait until the end of the year.

Each Spot also includes a year’s worth of software updates and a warranty, although the standard warranty just covers “defects related to materials and workmanship” not “I drove my robot off a cliff” or “I tried to take my robot swimming.” For that sort of thing (user error) to be covered, you’ll need to upgrade to the $12,000 Spot CARE premium service plan to cover your robot for a year as long as you don’t subject it to willful abuse, which both of those examples I just gave probably qualify as.

While we’re on the subject of robot abuse, Boston Dynamics has very sensibly devoted a substantial amount of the Spot User Guide to help new users understand how they should not be using their robot, in order to “lessen the risk of serious injury, death, or robot and other property damage.” According to the guide, some things that could cause Spot to fall include holes, cliffs, slippery surfaces (like ice and wet grass), and cords. Spot’s sensors also get confused by “transparent, mirrored, or very bright obstacles,” and the guide specifically says Spot “may crash into glass doors and windows.” Also this: “Spot cannot predict trajectories of moving objects. Do not operate Spot around moving objects such as vehicles, children, or pets.”

We should emphasize that this is all totally reasonable, and while there are certainly a lot of things to be aware of, it’s frankly astonishing that these are the only things that Boston Dynamics explicitly warns users against. Obviously, not every potentially unsafe situation or thing is described above, but the point is that Boston Dynamics is willing to say to new users, “here’s your robot, go do stuff with it” without feeling the need to hold their hand the entire time.

There’s one more thing to be aware of before you decide to buy a Spot, which is the following:

“All orders will be subject to Boston Dynamics’ Terms and Conditions of Sale which require the beneficial use of its robots.”

Specifically, this appears to mean that you aren’t allowed to (or supposed to) use the robot in a way that could hurt living things, or “as a weapon, or to enable any weapon.” The conditions of sale also prohibit using the robot for “any illegal or ultra-hazardous purpose,” and there’s some stuff in there about it not being cool to use Spot for “nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons proliferation, or development of missile technology,” which seems weirdly specific.

“Once you make a technology more broadly available, the story of it starts slipping out of your hands. Our hope is that ahead of time we’re able to clearly articulate the beneficial uses of the robot in environments where we think the robot has a high potential to reduce the risk to people, rather than potentially causing harm.”
—Michael Perry, Boston Dynamics

I’m very glad that Boston Dynamics is being so upfront about requiring that Spot is used beneficially. However, it does put the company in a somewhat challenging position now that these robots are being sold. Boston Dynamics can (and will) perform some amount of due-diligence before shipping a Spot, but ultimately, once the robots are in someone else’s hands, there’s only so much that BD can do.

Spectrum: Why is beneficial use important to Boston Dynamics?

Perry: One of the key things that we’ve highlighted many times in our license and terms of use is that we don’t want to see the robot being used in any way that inflicts physical harm on people or animals. There are philosophical reasons for that—I think all of us don’t want to see our technology used in a way that would hurt people. But also from a business perspective, robots are really terrible at conveying intention. In order for the robot to be helpful long-term, it has to be trusted as a piece of technology. So rather than looking at a robot and wondering, “is this something that could potentially hurt me,” we want people to think “this is a robot that’s here to help me.” To the extent that people associate Boston Dynamics with cutting edge robots, we think that this is an important stance for the rollout of our first commercial product. If we find out that somebody’s violated our terms of use, their warranty is invalidated, we won’t repair their product, and we have a licensing timeout that would prevent them from accessing their robot after that timeout has expired. It’s a remediation path, but we do think that it’s important to at least provide that as something that helps enforce our position on use of our technology.

It’s very important to keep all of this in context: Spot is a tool. It’s got some autonomy and the appearance of agency, but it’s still just doing what people tell it to do, even if those things might be unsafe. If you read through the user guide, it’s clear how much of an effort Boston Dynamics is making to try to convey the importance of safety to Spot users—and ultimately, barring some unforeseen and catastrophic software or hardware issues, safety is about the users, rather than Boston Dynamics or Spot itself. I bring this up because as we start seeing more and more Spots doing things without Boston Dynamics watching over them quite so closely, accidents are likely inevitable. Spot might step on someone’s foot. It might knock someone over. If Spot was perfectly safe, it wouldn’t be useful, and we have to acknowledge that its impressive capabilities come with some risks, too.

Photo: Boston Dynamics

Each Spot includes a year’s worth of software updates and a warranty, although the standard warranty just covers “defects related to materials and workmanship” not “I drove my robot off a cliff.”

Now that Spot is on the market for real, we’re excited to see who steps up and orders one. Depending on who the potential customer is, Spot could either seem like an impossibly sophisticated piece of technology that they’d never be able to use, or a magical way of solving all of their problems overnight. In reality, it’s of course neither of those things. For the former (folks with an idea but without a lot of robotics knowledge or experience), Spot does a lot out of the box, but BD is happy to talk with people and facilitate connections with partners who might be able to integrate specific software and hardware to get Spot to do a unique task. And for the latter (who may also be folks with an idea but without a lot of robotics knowledge or experience), BD’s Perry offers a reminder Spot is not Rosie the Robot, and would be equally happy to talk about what the technology is actually capable of doing.

Looking forward a bit, we asked Perry whether Spot’s capabilities mean that customers are starting to think beyond using robots to simply replace humans, and are instead looking at them as a way of enabling a completely different way of getting things done.

Spectrum: Do customers interested in Spot tend to think of it as a way of replacing humans at a specific task, or as a system that can do things that humans aren’t able to do?

Perry: There are what I imagine as three levels of people understanding the robot applications. Right now, we’re at level one, where you take a person out of this dangerous, dull job, and put a robot in. That’s the entry point. The second level is, using the robot, can we increase the production of that task? For example, take site documentation on a construction site—right now, people do 360 image capture of a site maybe once a week, and they might do a laser scan of the site once per project. At the second level, the question is, what if you were able to get that data collection every day, or multiple times a day? What kinds of benefits would that add to your process? To continue the construction example, the third level would be, how could we completely redesign this space now that we know that this type of automation is available? To take one example, there are some things that we cannot physically build because it’s too unsafe for people to be a part of that process, but if you were to apply robotics to that process, then you could potentially open up a huge envelope of design that has been inaccessible to people.

To order a Spot of your very own, visit shop.bostondynamics.com.

A version of this post appears in the August 2020 print issue as “$74,500 Will Fetch You a Spot.” Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots

#437820 In-Shoe Sensors and Mobile Robots Keep ...

In shoe sensor

Researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology are leveraging some of the newest mechanical and robotic technologies to help some of our oldest populations stay healthy, active, and independent.

Yi Guo, professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Robotics and Automation Laboratory, and Damiano Zanotto, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and director of the Wearable Robotic Systems Laboratory, are collaborating with Ashley Lytle, assistant professor in Stevens’ College of Arts and Letters, and Ashwini K. Rao of Columbia University Medical Center, to combine an assistive mobile robot companion with wearable in-shoe sensors in a system designed to help elderly individuals maintain the balance and motion they need to thrive.

“Balance and motion can be significant issues for this population, and if elderly people fall and experience an injury, they are less likely to stay fit and exercise,” Guo said. “As a consequence, their level of fitness and performance decreases. Our mobile robot companion can help decrease the chances of falling and contribute to a healthy lifestyle by keeping their walking function at a good level.”

The mobile robots are designed to lead walking sessions and using the in-shoe sensors, monitor the user’s gait, indicate issues, and adjust the exercise speed and pace. The initiative is part of a four-year National Science Foundation research project.

“For the first time, we’re integrating our wearable sensing technology with an autonomous mobile robot,” said Zanotto, who worked with elderly people at Columbia University Medical Center for three years before coming to Stevens in 2016. “It’s exciting to be combining these different areas of expertise to leverage the strong points of wearable sensing technology, such as accurately capturing human movement, with the advantages of mobile robotics, such as much larger computational powers.”

The team is developing algorithms that fuse real-time data from smart, unobtrusive, in-shoe sensors and advanced on-board sensors to inform the robot’s navigation protocols and control the way the robot interacts with elderly individuals. It’s a promising way to assist seniors in safely doing walking exercises and maintaining their quality of life.

Bringing the benefits of the lab to life

Guo and Zanotto are working with Lytle, an expert in social and health psychology, to implement a social connectivity capability and make the bi-directional interaction between human and robot even more intuitive, engaging, and meaningful for seniors.

“Especially during COVID, it’s important for elderly people living on their own to connect socially with family and friends,” Zanotto said, “and the robot companion will also offer teleconferencing tools to provide that interaction in an intuitive and transparent way.”

“We want to use the robot for social connectedness, perhaps integrating it with a conversation agent such as Alexa,” Guo added. “The goal is to make it a companion robot that can sense, for example, that you are cooking, or you’re in the living room, and help with things you would do there.”

It’s a powerful example of how abstract concepts can have meaningful real-life benefits.

“As engineers, we tend to work in the lab, trying to optimize our algorithms and devices and technologies,” Zanotto noted, “but at the end of the day, what we do has limited value unless it has impact on real life. It’s fascinating to see how the devices and technologies we’re developing in the lab can be applied to make a difference for real people.”

Maintaining balance in a global pandemic

Although COVID-19 has delayed the planned testing at a senior center in New York City, it has not stopped the team’s progress.

“Although we can’t test on elderly populations yet, our students are still testing in the lab,” Guo said. “This summer and fall, for the first time, the students validated the system’s real-time ability to monitor and assess the dynamic margin of stability during walking—in other words, to evaluate whether the person following the robot is walking normally or has a risk of falling. They’re also designing parameters for the robot to give early warnings and feedback that help the human subjects correct posture and gait issues while walking.”

Those warnings would be literally underfoot, as the in-shoe sensors would pulse like a vibrating cell phone to deliver immediate directional information to the subject.

“We’re not the first to use this vibrotactile stimuli technology, but this application is new,” Zanotto said.

So far, the team has published papers in top robotics publication venues including IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering and the 2020 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). It’s a big step toward realizing the synergies of bringing the technical expertise of engineers to bear on the clinical focus on biometrics—and the real lives of seniors everywhere. Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots

#437776 Video Friday: This Terrifying Robot Will ...

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!):

CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
ICUAS 2020 – September 1-4, 2020 – Athens, Greece
ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan
IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – Las Vegas, Nevada
ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colorado
Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos.

The Aigency, which created the FitBot launch video below, is “the world’s first talent management resource for robotic personalities.”

Robots will be playing a bigger role in our lives in the future. By learning to speak their language and work with them now, we can make this future better for everybody. If you’re a creator that’s producing content to entertain and educate people, robots can be a part of that. And we can help you. Robotic actors can show up alongside the rest of your actors.

The folks at Aigency have put together a compilation reel of clips they’ve put on TikTok, which is nice of them, because some of us don’t know how to TikTok because we’re old and boring.

Do googly eyes violate the terms and conditions?

[ Aigency ]

Shane Wighton of the “Stuff Made Here” YouTube channel, who you might remember from that robotic basketball hoop, has a new invention: A haircut robot. This is not the the first barber bot, but previous designs typically used hair clippers. Shane wanted his robot to use scissors. Hilarious and terrifying at once.

[ Stuff Made Here ]

Starting in October of 2016, Prof. Charlie Kemp and Henry M. Clever invented a new kind of robot. They named the prototype NewRo. In March of 2017, Prof. Kemp filmed this video of Henry operating NewRo to perform a number of assistive tasks. While visiting the Bay Area for a AAAI Symposium workshop at Stanford, Prof. Kemp showed this video to a select group of people to get advice, including Dr. Aaron Edsinger. In August of 2017, Dr. Edsinger and Dr. Kemp founded Hello Robot Inc. to commercialize this patent pending assistive technology. Hello Robot Inc. licensed the intellectual property (IP) from Georgia Tech. After three years of stealthy effort, Hello Robot Inc. revealed Stretch, a new kind of robot!

[ Georgia Tech ]

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter will make history's first attempt at powered flight on another planet next spring. It is riding with the agency's next mission to Mars (the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover) as it launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station later this summer. Perseverance, with Ingenuity attached to its belly, will land on Mars February 18, 2021.

[ JPL ]

For humans, it can be challenging to manipulate thin flexible objects like ropes, wires, or cables. But if these problems are hard for humans, they are nearly impossible for robots. As a cable slides between the fingers, its shape is constantly changing, and the robot’s fingers must be constantly sensing and adjusting the cable’s position and motion. A group of researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and from the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering pursued the task from a different angle, in a manner that more closely mimics us humans. The team’s new system uses a pair of soft robotic grippers with high-resolution tactile sensors (and no added mechanical constraints) to successfully manipulate freely moving cables.

The team observed that it was difficult to pull the cable back when it reached the edge of the finger, because of the convex surface of the GelSight sensor. Therefore, they hope to improve the finger-sensor shape to enhance the overall performance. In the future, they plan to study more complex cable manipulation tasks such as cable routing and cable inserting through obstacles, and they want to eventually explore autonomous cable manipulation tasks in the auto industry.

[ MIT ]

Gripping robots typically have troubles grabbing transparent or shiny objects. A new technique by Carnegie Mellon University relies on color camera system and machine learning to recognize shapes based on color.

[ CMU ]

A new robotic prosthetic leg prototype offers a more natural, comfortable gait while also being quieter and more energy efficient than other designs. The key is the use of new small and powerful motors with fewer gears, borrowed from the space industry. This streamlined technology enables a free-swinging knee and regenerative braking, which charges the battery during use with energy that would typically be dissipated when the foot hits the ground. This feature enables the leg to more than double a typical prosthetic user's walking needs with one charge per day.

[ University of Michigan ]

Thanks Kate!

This year’s Wonder League teams have been put to the test not only with the challenges set forth by Wonder Workshop and Cartoon Network as they look to help the creek kids from Craig of the Creek solve the greatest mystery of all – the quest for the Lost Realm but due to forces outside their control. With a global pandemic displacing many teams from one another due to lockdowns and quarantines, these teams continued to push themselves to find new ways to work together, solve problems, communicate more effectively, and push themselves to complete a journey that they started and refused to give up on. We at Wonder Workshop are humbled and in awe of all these teams have accomplished.

[ Wonder Workshop ]

Thanks Nicole!

Meet Colin Creager, a mechanical engineer at NASA's Glenn Research Center. Colin is focusing on developing tires that can be used on other worlds. These tires use coil springs made of a special shape memory alloy that will let rovers move across sharp jagged rocks or through soft sand on the Moon or Mars.

[ NASA ]

To be presented at IROS this year, “the first on robot collision detection system using low cost microphones.”

[ Rutgers ]

Robot and mechanism designs inspired by the art of Origami have the potential to generate compact, deployable, lightweight morphing structures, as seen in nature, for potential applications in search-and-rescue, aerospace systems, and medical devices. However, it is challenging to obtain actuation that is easily patternable, reversible, and made with a scalable manufacturing process for origami-inspired self-folding machines. In this work, we describe an approach to design reversible self-folding machines using liquid crystal elastomer (LCE), that contracts when heated, as an artificial muscle.

[ UCSD ]

Just in case you need some extra home entertainment, and you’d like cleaner floors at the same time.

[ iRobot ]

Sure, toss it from a drone. Or from orbit. Whatever, it’s squishy!

[ Squishy Robotics ]

The [virtual] RSS conference this week featured an excellent lineup of speakers and panels, and the best part about it being virtual is that you can watch them all at your leisure! Here’s what’s been posted so far:

[ RSS 2020 ]

Lockheed Martin Robotics Seminar: Toward autonomous flying insect-sized robots: recent results in fabrication, design, power systems, control, and sensing with Sawyer Fuller.

[ UMD ]

In this episode of the AI Podcast, Lex interviews Sergey Levine.

[ AI Podcast ] Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots