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#439010 Video Friday: Nanotube-Powered Insect ...

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!):

HRI 2021 – March 8-11, 2021 – [Online Conference]
RoboSoft 2021 – April 12-16, 2021 – [Online Conference]
ICRA 2021 – May 30-5, 2021 – Xi'an, China
Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos.

If you’ve ever swatted a mosquito away from your face, only to have it return again (and again and again), you know that insects can be remarkably acrobatic and resilient in flight. Those traits help them navigate the aerial world, with all of its wind gusts, obstacles, and general uncertainty. Such traits are also hard to build into flying robots, but MIT Assistant Professor Kevin Yufeng Chen has built a system that approaches insects’ agility.

Chen’s actuators can flap nearly 500 times per second, giving the drone insect-like resilience. “You can hit it when it’s flying, and it can recover,” says Chen. “It can also do aggressive maneuvers like somersaults in the air.” And it weighs in at just 0.6 grams, approximately the mass of a large bumble bee. The drone looks a bit like a tiny cassette tape with wings, though Chen is working on a new prototype shaped like a dragonfly.

[ MIT ]

National Robotics Week is April 3-11, 2021!

[ NRW ]

This is in a motion capture environment, but still, super impressive!

[ Paper ]

Thanks Fan!

Why wait for Boston Dynamics to add an arm to your Spot if you can just do it yourself?

[ ETHZ ]

This video shows the deep-sea free swimming of soft robot in the South China Sea. The soft robot was grasped by a robotic arm on ‘HAIMA’ ROV and reached the bottom of the South China Sea (depth of 3,224 m). After the releasing, the soft robot was actuated with an on-board AC voltage of 8 kV at 1 Hz and demonstrated free swimming locomotion with its flapping fins.

Um, did they bring it back?

[ Nature ]

Quadruped Yuki Mini is 12 DOF robot equipped with a Raspberry Pi that runs ROS. Also, BUNNIES!

[ Lingkang Zhang ]

Thanks Lingkang!

Deployment of drone swarms usually relies on inter-agent communication or visual markers that are mounted on the vehicles to simplify their mutual detection. The vswarm package enables decentralized vision-based control of drone swarms without relying on inter-agent communication or visual fiducial markers. The results show that the drones can safely navigate in an outdoor environment despite substantial background clutter and difficult lighting conditions.

[ Vswarm ]

A conventional adopted method for operating a waiter robot is based on the static position control, where pre-defined goal positions are marked on a map. However, this solution is not optimal in a dynamic setting, such as in a coffee shop or an outdoor catering event, because the customers often change their positions. We explore an alternative human-robot interface design where a human operator communicates the identity of the customer to the robot instead. Inspired by how [a] human communicates, we propose a framework for communicating a visual goal to the robot, through interactive two-way communications.

[ Paper ]

Thanks Poramate!

In this video, LOLA reacts to undetected ground height changes, including a drop and leg-in-hole experiment. Further tests show the robustness to vertical disturbances using a seesaw. The robot is technically blind, not using any camera-based or prior information on the terrain.

[ TUM ]

RaiSim is a cross-platform multi-body physics engine for robotics and AI. It fully supports Linux, Mac OS, and Windows.

[ RaiSim ]

Thanks Fan!

The next generation of LoCoBot is here. The LoCoBot is an ROS research rover for mapping, navigation and manipulation (optional) that enables researchers, educators and students alike to focus on high level code development instead of hardware and building out lower level code. Development on the LoCoBot is simplified with open source software, full ROS-mapping and navigation packages and modular opensource Python API that allows users to move the platform as well as (optional) manipulator in as few as 10 lines of code.

[ Trossen ]

MIT Media Lab Research Specialist Dr. Kate Darling looks at how robots are portrayed in popular film and TV shows.

Kate's book, The New Breed: What Our History with Animals Reveals about Our Future with Robots can be pre-ordered now and comes out next month.

[ Kate Darling ]

The current autonomous mobility systems for planetary exploration are wheeled rovers, limited to flat, gently-sloping terrains and agglomerate regolith. These vehicles cannot tolerate instability and operate within a low-risk envelope (i.e., low-incline driving to avoid toppling). Here, we present ‘Mars Dogs’ (MD), four-legged robotic dogs, the next evolution of extreme planetary exploration.

[ Team CoSTAR ]

In 2020, first-year PhD students at the MIT Media Lab were tasked with a special project—to reimagine the Lab and write sci-fi stories about the MIT Media Lab in the year 2050. “But, we are researchers. We don't only write fiction, we also do science! So, we did what scientists do! We used a secret time machine under the MIT dome to go to the year 2050 and see what’s going on there! Luckily, the Media Lab still exists and we met someone…really cool!” Enjoy this interview of Cyber Joe, AI Mentor for MIT Media Lab Students of 2050.

[ MIT ]

In this talk, we will give an overview of the diverse research we do at CSIRO’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems Group and delve into some specific technologies we have developed including SLAM and Legged robotics. We will also give insights into CSIRO’s participation in the current DARPA Subterranean Challenge where we are deploying a fleet of heterogeneous robots into GPS-denied unknown underground environments.

[ GRASP Seminar ]

Marco Hutter (ETH) and Hae-Won Park (KAIST) talk about “Robotics Inspired by Nature.”

[ Swiss-Korean Science Club ]

Thanks Fan!

In this keynote, Guy Hoffman Assistant Professor and the Mills Family Faculty Fellow in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University, discusses “The Social Uncanny of Robotic Companions.”

[ Designerly HRI ] Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots

#438747 The appearance of robots affects our ...

'Moralities of Intelligent Machines' is a project that investigates people's attitudes towards moral choices made by artificial intelligence. In the latest study completed under the project, study participants read short narratives where either a robot, a somewhat humanoid robot known as iRobot, a robot with a strong humanoid appearance called iClooney or a human being encounters a moral problem along the lines of the trolley dilemma, making a specific decision. The participants were also shown images of these agents, after which they assessed the morality of their decisions. The study was funded by the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation and the Academy of Finland. Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots

#437826 Video Friday: Skydio 2 Drone Is Back on ...

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!):

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
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.

Skydio, which makes what we’re pretty sure is the most intelligent consumer drone (or maybe just drone period) in existence, has been dealing with COVID-19 just like the rest of us. Even so, they’ve managed to push out a major software update, and pre-orders for the Skydio 2 are now open again.

If you think you might want one, read our review, after which you’ll be sure you want one.

[ Skydio ]

Worried about people with COVID entering your workplace? Misty II has your front desk covered, in a way that’s quite a bit friendlier than many other options.

Misty II provides a dynamic and interactive screening experience that delivers a joyful experience in an otherwise depressing moment while also delivering state of the art thermal scanning and health screening. We have already found that employees, customers, and visitors appreciate the novelty of interacting with a clever and personable robot. Misty II engages dynamically, both visually and verbally. Companies appreciate using a solution with a blackbody-referenced thermal camera that provides high accuracy and a short screening process for efficiency. Putting a robot to work in this role shifts not only how people look at the screening process but also how robots can take on useful assignments in business, schools and homes.

[ Misty Robotics ]

Thanks Tim!

I’m definitely the one in the middle.

[ Agility Robotics ]

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter is traveling to Mars attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover and must safely detach to begin the first attempt at powered flight on another planet. Tests done at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Lockheed Martin Space show the sequence of events that will bring the helicopter down to the Martian surface.

[ JPL ]

Here’s a sequence of videos of Cassie Blue making it (or mostly making it) up a 22-degree slope.

My mood these days is Cassie at 1:09.

[ University of Michigan ]

Thanks Jesse!

This is somewhere on the line between home automation and robotics, but it’s a cool idea: A baby crib that “uses computer vision and machine learning to recognize subtle changes” in an infant’s movement, and proactively bounces them to keep them sleeping peacefully.

It costs $1000, but how much value do you put on 24 months of your own sleep?

[ Cradlewise ]

Thanks Ben!

As captive marine mammal shows have fallen from favor; and the catching, transporting and breeding of marine animals has become more restricted, the marine park industry as a viable business has become more challenging – yet the audience appetite for this type of entertainment and education has remained constant.

Real-time Animatronics provide a way to reinvent the marine entertainment industry with a sustainable, safe, and profitable future. Show venues include aquariums, marine parks, theme parks, fountain shows, cruise lines, resort hotels, shopping malls, museums, and more.

[ EdgeFX ] via [ Gizmodo ]

Robotic cabling is surprisingly complex and kinda cool to watch.

The video shows the sophisticated robot application “Automatic control cabinet cabling”, which Fraunhofer IPA implemented together with the company Rittal. The software pitasc, developed at Fraunhofer IPA, is used for force-controlled assembly processes. Two UR robot arms carry out the task together. The modular pitasc system enables the robot arms to move and rotate in parallel. They work hand in hand, with one robot holding the cable and the second bringing it to the starting position for the cabling. The robots can find, tighten, hold ready, lay, plug in, fix, move freely or immerse cables. They can also perform push-ins and pull tests.

[ Fraunhofer ]

This is from 2018, but the concept is still pretty neat.

We propose to perform a novel investigation into the ability of a propulsively hopping robot to reach targets of high science value on the icy, rugged terrains of Ocean Worlds. The employment of a multi-hop architecture allows for the rapid traverse of great distances, enabling a single mission to reach multiple geologic units within a timespan conducive to system survival in a harsh radiation environment. We further propose that the use of a propulsive hopping technique obviates the need for terrain topographic and strength assumptions and allows for complete terrain agnosticism; a key strength of this concept.

[ NASA ]

Aerial-aquatic robots possess the unique ability of operating in both air and water. However, this capability comes with tremendous challenges, such as communication incompati- bility, increased airborne mass, potentially inefficient operation in each of the environments and manufacturing difficulties. Such robots, therefore, typically have small payloads and a limited operational envelope, often making their field usage impractical. We propose a novel robotic water sampling approach that combines the robust technologies of multirotors and underwater micro-vehicles into a single integrated tool usable for field operations.

[ Imperial ]

Event cameras are bio-inspired vision sensors with microsecond latency resolution, much larger dynamic range and hundred times lower power consumption than standard cameras. This 20-minute talk gives a short tutorial on event cameras and show their applications on computer vision, drones, and cars.

[ UZH ]

We interviewed Paul Newman, Perla Maiolino and Lars Kunze, ORI academics, to hear what gets them excited about robots in the future and any advice they have for those interested in the field.

[ Oxford Robotics Institute ]

Two projects from the Rehabilitation Engineering Lab at ETH Zurich, including a self-stabilizing wheelchair and a soft exoskeleton for grasping assistance.

[ ETH Zurich ]

Silicon Valley Robotics hosted an online conversation about robotics and racism. Moderated by Andra Keay, the panel featured Maynard Holliday, Tom Williams, Monroe Kennedy III, Jasmine Lawrence, Chad Jenkins, and Ken Goldberg.

[ SVR ]

The ICRA Legged Locomotion workshop has been taking place online, and while we’re not getting a robot mosh pit, there are still some great talks. We’ll post two here, but for more, follow the legged robots YouTube channel at the link below.

[ YouTube ] Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots

#437753 iRobot’s New Education Robot Makes ...

iRobot has been on a major push into education robots recently. They acquired Root Robotics in 2019, and earlier this year, launched an online simulator and associated curriculum designed to work in tandem with physical Root robots. The original Root was intended to be a classroom robot, with one of its key features being the ability to stick to (and operate on) magnetic virtual surfaces, like whiteboards. And as a classroom robot, at $200, it’s relatively affordable, if you can buy one or two and have groups of kids share them.

For kids who are more focused on learning at home, though, $200 is a lot for a robot that doesn't even keep your floors clean. And as nice as it is to have a free simulator, any kid will tell you that it’s way cooler to have a real robot to mess around with. Today, iRobot is announcing a new version of Root that’s been redesigned for home use, with a $129 price that makes it significantly more accessible to folks outside of the classroom.

The Root rt0 is a second version of the Root robot—the more expensive, education-grade Root rt1 is still available. To bring the cost down, the rt0 is missing some features that you can still find in the rt1. Specifically, you don’t get the internal magnets to stick the robot to vertical surfaces, there are no cliff sensors, and you don’t get a color scanner or an eraser. But for home use, the internal magnets are probably not necessary anyway, and the rest of that stuff seems like a fair compromise for a cost reduction of 30 percent.

Photo: iRobot

One of the new accessories for the iRobot Root rt0 is a “Brick Top” that snaps onto the upper face the robot via magnets. The accessory can be used with LEGOs and other LEGO-compatible bricks, opening up an enormous amount of customization.

It’s not all just taking away, though. There’s also a new $20 accessory, a LEGO-ish “Brick Top” that snaps onto the upper face of Root (either version) via magnets. The plate can be used with LEGO bricks and other LEGO-compatible things. This opens up an enormous amount of customization, and it’s for more than just decoration, since Root rt0 has the ability to interact with whatever’s on top of it via its actuated marker. Root can move the marker up and down, the idea being that you can programmatically turn lines on and off. By replacing the marker with a plastic thingy that sticks up through the body of the robot, the marker up/down command can be used to actuate something on the brick top. In the video, that’s what triggers the catapult.

Photo: iRobot

By attaching a marker, you can program Root to draw. The robot has a motor that can move the marker up and down.

This less expensive version of Root still has access to the online simulator, as well as the multi-level coding interface that allows kids to seamlessly transition through multiple levels of coding complexity, from graphical to text. There’s a new Android app coming out today, and you can access everything through web-based apps on Chrome OS, Windows and macOS, as well as on iOS. iRobot tells us that they’ve also recently expanded their online learning library full of Root-based educational activities. In particular, they’ve added a new category on “Social Emotional Learning,” the goal of which is to help kids develop things like social awareness, self-management, decision making, and relationship skills. We’re not quite sure how you teach those things with a little hexagonal robot, but we like that iRobot is giving it a try.

Root coding robots are designed for kids age 6 and up, ships for free, and is available now.

[ iRobot Root ] Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots

#437608 Video Friday: Agility Robotics Raises ...

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!):

IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – [Online]
ROS World 2020 – November 12, 2020 – [Online]
CYBATHLON 2020 – November 13-14, 2020 – [Online]
ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colo., USA
Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

Digit is now in full commercial production and we’re excited to announce a $20M funding rounding round co-led by DCVC and Playground Global!

Digits for everyone!

[ Agility Robotics ]

A flexible rover that has both ability to travel long distances and rappel down hard-to-reach areas of scientific interest has undergone a field test in the Mojave Desert in California to showcase its versatility. Composed of two Axel robots, DuAxel is designed to explore crater walls, pits, scarps, vents and other extreme terrain on the moon, Mars and beyond.

This technology demonstration developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California showcases the robot’s ability to split in two and send one of its halves — a two-wheeled Axle robot — over an otherwise inaccessible slope, using a tether as support and to supply power.

The rappelling Axel can then autonomously seek out areas to study, safely overcome slopes and rocky obstacles, and then return to dock with its other half before driving to another destination. Although the rover doesn’t yet have a mission, key technologies are being developed that might, one day, help us explore the rocky planets and moons throughout the solar system.

[ JPL ]

A rectangular robot as tiny as a few human hairs can travel throughout a colon by doing back flips, Purdue University engineers have demonstrated in live animal models. Why the back flips? Because the goal is to use these robots to transport drugs in humans, whose colons and other organs have rough terrain. Side flips work, too. Why a back-flipping robot to transport drugs? Getting a drug directly to its target site could remove side effects, such as hair loss or stomach bleeding, that the drug may otherwise cause by interacting with other organs along the way.

[ Purdue ]

This video shows the latest results in the whole-body locomotion control of the humanoid robot iCub achieved by the Dynamic Interaction Control line at IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Genova (Italy). In particular, the iCub now keeps the balance while walking and receiving pushes from an external user. The implemented control algorithms also ensure the robot to remain compliant during locomotion and human-robot interaction, a fundamental property to lower the possibility to harm humans that share the robot surrounding environment.

This is super impressive, considering that iCub was only able to crawl and was still tethered not too long ago. Also, it seems to be blinking properly now, so it doesn’t look like it’s always sleepy.

[ IIT ]

This video shows a set of new tests we performed on Bolt. We conducted tests on 5 different scenarios, 1) walking forward/backward 2) uneven surface 3) soft surface 4) push recovery 5) slippage recovery. Thanks to our feedback control based on Model Predictive Control, the robot can perform walking in the presence of all these uncertainties. We will open-source all the codes in a near future.

[ ODRI ]

The title of this video is “Can you throw your robot into a lake?” The title of this video should be, “Can you throw your robot into a lake and drive it out again?”

[ Norlab ]

AeroVironment Successfully Completes Sunglider Solar HAPS Stratospheric Test Flight, Surpassing 60,000 Feet Altitude and Demonstrating Broadband Mobile Connectivity.

[ AeroVironment ]

We present CoVR, a novel robotic interface providing strong kinesthetic feedback (100 N) in a room-scale VR arena. It consists of a physical column mounted on a 2D Cartesian ceiling robot (XY displacements) with the capacity of (1) resisting to body-scaled users actions such as pushing or leaning; (2) acting on the users by pulling or transporting them as well as (3) carrying multiple potentially heavy objects (up to 80kg) that users can freely manipulate or make interact with each other.

[ DeepAI ]

In a new video, personnel from Swiss energy supply company Kraftwerke Oberhasli AG (KWO) explain how they were able to keep employees out of harm’s way by using Flyability’s Elios 2 to collect visual data while building a new dam.

[ Flyability ]

Enjoy our Ascento robot fail compilation! With every failure we experience, we learn more and we can improve our robot for its next iteration, which will come soon… Stay tuned for more!

FYI posting a robot fails video will pretty much guarantee you a spot in Video Friday!

[ Ascento ]

Humans are remarkably good at using chopsticks. The Guinness World Record witnessed a person using chopsticks to pick up 65 M&Ms in just a minute. We aim to collect demonstrations from humans and to teach robot to use chopsticks.

[ UW Personal Robotics Lab ]

A surprising amount of personality from these Yaskawa assembly robots.

[ Yaskawa ]

This paper presents the system design, modeling, and control of the Aerial Robotic Chain Manipulator. This new robot design offers the potential to exert strong forces and moments to the environment, carry and lift significant payloads, and simultaneously navigate through narrow corridors. The presented experimental studies include a valve rotation task, a pick-and-release task, and the verification of load oscillation suppression to demonstrate the stability and performance of the system.

[ ARL ]

Whether animals or plants, whether in the water, on land or in the air, nature provides the model for many technical innovations and inventions. This is summed up in the term bionics, which is a combination of the words ‘biology‘ and ‘electronics’. At Festo, learning from nature has a long history, as our Bionic Learning Network is based on using nature as the source for future technologies like robots, assistance systems or drive solutions.

[ Festo ]

Dogs! Selfies! Thousands of LEGO bricks! This video has it all.

[ LEGO ]

An IROS workshop talk on “Cassie and Mini Cheetah Autonomy” by Maani Ghaffari and Jessy Grizzle from the University of Michigan.

[ Michigan Robotics ]

David Schaefer’s Cozmo robots are back with this mind-blowing dance-off!

What you just saw represents hundreds of hours of work, David tells us: “I wrote over 10,000 lines of code to create the dance performance as I had to translate the beats per minute of the song into motor rotations in order to get the right precision needed to make the moves look sharp. The most challenging move was the SpongeBob SquareDance as any misstep would send the Cozmos crashing into each other. LOL! Fortunately for me, Cozmo robots are pretty resilient.”

[ Life with Cozmo ]

Thanks David!

This week’s GRASP on Robotics seminar is by Sangbae Kim from MIT, on “Robots with Physical Intelligence.”

While industrial robots are effective in repetitive, precise kinematic tasks in factories, the design and control of these robots are not suited for physically interactive performance that humans do easily. These tasks require ‘physical intelligence’ through complex dynamic interactions with environments whereas conventional robots are designed primarily for position control. In order to develop a robot with ‘physical intelligence’, we first need a new type of machines that allow dynamic interactions. This talk will discuss how the new design paradigm allows dynamic interactive tasks. As an embodiment of such a robot design paradigm, the latest version of the MIT Cheetah robots and force-feedback teleoperation arms will be presented.


This week’s CMU Ri Seminar is by Kevin Lynch from Northwestern, on “Robotics and Biosystems.”

Research at the Center for Robotics and Biosystems at Northwestern University encompasses bio-inspiration, neuromechanics, human-machine systems, and swarm robotics, among other topics. In this talk I will give an overview of some of our recent work on in-hand manipulation, robot locomotion on yielding ground, and human-robot systems.

[ CMU RI ] Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots