Tag Archives: remotely

#438886 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

This Chip for AI Works Using Light, Not Electrons
Will Knight | Wired
“As demand for artificial intelligence grows, so does hunger for the computer power needed to keep AI running. Lightmatter, a startup born at MIT, is betting that AI’s voracious hunger will spawn demand for a fundamentally different kind of computer chip—one that uses light to perform key calculations. ‘Either we invent new kinds of computers to continue,’ says Lightmatter CEO Nick Harris, ‘or AI slows down.’i”

With This CAD for Genomes, You Can Design New Organisms
Eliza Strickland | IEEE Spectrum
“Imagine being able to design a new organism as easily as you can design a new integrated circuit. That’s the ultimate vision behind the computer-aided design (CAD) program being developed by the GP-write consortium. ‘We’re taking the same things we’d do for design automation in electronics, and applying them to biology,’ says Doug Densmore, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Boston University.”

Hey, So These Sea Slugs Decapitate Themselves and Grow New Bodies
Matt Simon | Wired
“That’s right: It pulled a Deadpool. Just a few hours after its self-decapitation, the head began dragging itself around to feed. After a day, the neck wound had closed. After a week, it started to regenerate a heart. In less than a month, the whole body had grown back, and the disembodied slug was embodied once more.”

Move Over, Deep Nostalgia, This AI App Can Make Kim Jong-un Sing ‘I Will Survive’
Helen Sullivan | The Guardian
“If you’ve ever wanted to know what it might be like to see Kim Jong-un let loose at karaoke, your wish has been granted, thanks to an app that lets users turn photographs of anyone—or anything remotely resembling a face—into uncanny AI-powered videos of them lip syncing famous songs.”

GM Unveils Plans for Lithium-Metal Batteries That Could Boost EV Range
Steve Dent | Engadget
“GM has released more details about its next-generation Ultium batteries, including plans for lithium-metal (Li-metal) technology to boost performance and energy density. The automaker announced that it has signed an agreement to work with SolidEnergy Systems (SES), an MIT spinoff developing prototype Li-metal batteries with nearly double the capacity of current lithium-ion cells.”

Xi’s Gambit: China Plans for a World Without American Technology
Paul Mozur and Steven Lee Myers | The New York Times
“China is freeing up tens of billions of dollars for its tech industry to borrow. It is cataloging the sectors where the United States or others could cut off access to crucial technologies. And when its leaders released their most important economic plans last week, they laid out their ambitions to become an innovation superpower beholden to none.”

Imaginary Numbers May Be Essential for Describing Reality
Charlie Wood | Wired
“…physicists may have just shown for the first time that imaginary numbers are, in a sense, real. A group of quantum theorists designed an experiment whose outcome depends on whether nature has an imaginary side. Provided that quantum mechanics is correct—an assumption few would quibble with—the team’s argument essentially guarantees that complex numbers are an unavoidable part of our description of the physical universe.”

What Is Life? Its Vast Diversity Defies Easy Definition
Carl Zimmer | Quanta
“i‘It is commonly said,’ the scientists Frances Westall and André Brack wrote in 2018, ‘that there are as many definitions of life as there are people trying to define it.’ …As an observer of science and of scientists, I find this behavior strange. It is as if astronomers kept coming up with new ways to define stars. …With scientists adrift in an ocean of definitions, philosophers rowed out to offer lifelines.”

Image Credit: Kir Simakov / Unsplash Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots

#438785 Video Friday: A Blimp For Your Cat

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.

Shiny robotic cat toy blimp!

I am pretty sure this is Google Translate getting things wrong, but the About page mentions that the blimp will “take you to your destination after appearing in the death of God.”

[ NTT DoCoMo ] via [ RobotStart ]

If you have yet to see this real-time video of Perseverance landing on Mars, drop everything and watch it.

During the press conference, someone commented that this is the first time anyone on the team who designed and built this system has ever seen it in operation, since it could only be tested at the component scale on Earth. This landing system has blown my mind since Curiosity.

Here's a better look at where Percy ended up:

[ NASA ]

The fact that Digit can just walk up and down wet, slippery, muddy hills without breaking a sweat is (still) astonishing.

[ Agility Robotics ]

SkyMul wants drones to take over the task of tying rebar, which looks like just the sort of thing we'd rather robots be doing so that we don't have to:

The tech certainly looks promising, and SkyMul says that they're looking for some additional support to bring things to the pilot stage.

[ SkyMul ]

Thanks Eohan!

Flatcat is a pet-like, playful robot that reacts to touch. Flatcat feels everything exactly: Cuddle with it, romp around with it, or just watch it do weird things of its own accord. We are sure that flatcat will amaze you, like us, and caress your soul.

I don't totally understand it, but I want it anyway.

[ Flatcat ]

Thanks Oswald!

This is how I would have a romantic dinner date if I couldn't get together in person. Herman the UR3 and an OptiTrack system let me remotely make a romantic meal!

[ Dave's Armoury ]

Here, we propose a novel design of deformable propellers inspired by dragonfly wings. The structure of these propellers includes a flexible segment similar to the nodus on a dragonfly wing. This flexible segment can bend, twist and even fold upon collision, absorbing force upon impact and protecting the propeller from damage.

[ Paper ]

Thanks Van!

In the 1970s, The CIA​ created the world's first miniaturized unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, which was intended to be a clandestine listening device. The Insectothopter was never deployed operationally, but was still revolutionary for its time.

It may never have been deployed (not that they'll admit to, anyway), but it was definitely operational and could fly controllably.

[ CIA ]

Research labs are starting to get Digits, which means we're going to get a much better idea of what its limitations are.

[ Ohio State ]

This video shows the latest achievements for LOLA walking on undetected uneven terrain. The robot is technically blind, not using any camera-based or prior information on the terrain.

[ TUM ]

We define “robotic contact juggling” to be the purposeful control of the motion of a three-dimensional smooth object as it rolls freely on a motion-controlled robot manipulator, or “hand.” While specific examples of robotic contact juggling have been studied before, in this paper we provide the first general formulation and solution method for the case of an arbitrary smooth object in single-point rolling contact on an arbitrary smooth hand.

[ Paper ]

Thanks Fan!

A couple of new cobots from ABB, designed to work safely around humans.

[ ABB ]

Thanks Fan!

It's worth watching at least a little bit of Adam Savage testing Spot's new arm, because we get to see Spot try, fail, and eventually succeed at an autonomous door-opening behavior at the 10 minute mark.

[ Tested ]

SVR discusses diversity with guest speakers Dr. Michelle Johnson from the GRASP Lab at UPenn; Dr Ariel Anders from Women in Robotics and first technical hire at Robust.ai; Alka Roy from The Responsible Innovation Project; and Kenechukwu C. Mbanesi and Kenya Andrews from Black in Robotics. The discussion here is moderated by Dr. Ken Goldberg—artist, roboticist and Director of the CITRIS People and Robots Lab—and Andra Keay from Silicon Valley Robotics.

[ SVR ]

RAS presents a Soft Robotics Debate on Bioinspired vs. Biohybrid Design.

In this debate, we will bring together experts in Bioinspiration and Biohybrid design to discuss the necessary steps to make more competent soft robots. We will try to answer whether bioinspired research should focus more on developing new bioinspired material and structures or on the integration of living and artificial structures in biohybrid designs.

[ RAS SoRo ]

IFRR presents a Colloquium on Human Robot Interaction.

Across many application domains, robots are expected to work in human environments, side by side with people. The users will vary substantially in background, training, physical and cognitive abilities, and readiness to adopt technology. Robotic products are expected to not only be intuitive, easy to use, and responsive to the needs and states of their users, but they must also be designed with these differences in mind, making human-robot interaction (HRI) a key area of research.

[ IFRR ]

Vijay Kumar, Nemirovsky Family Dean and Professor at Penn Engineering, gives an introduction to ENIAC day and David Patterson, Pardee Professor of Computer Science, Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley, speaks about the legacy of the ENIAC and its impact on computer architecture today. This video is comprised of lectures one and two of nine total lectures in the ENIAC Day series.

There are more interesting ENIAC videos at the link below, but we'll highlight this particular one, about the women of the ENIAC, also known as the First Programmers.

[ ENIAC Day ] Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots

#438014 Meet Blueswarm, a Smart School of ...

Anyone who’s seen an undersea nature documentary has marveled at the complex choreography that schooling fish display, a darting, synchronized ballet with a cast of thousands.

Those instinctive movements have inspired researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. The results could improve the performance and dependability of not just underwater robots, but other vehicles that require decentralized locomotion and organization, such as self-driving cars and robotic space exploration.

The fish collective called Blueswarm was created by a team led by Radhika Nagpal, whose lab is a pioneer in self-organizing systems. The oddly adorable robots can sync their movements like biological fish, taking cues from their plastic-bodied neighbors with no external controls required. Nagpal told IEEE Spectrum that this marks a milestone, demonstrating complex 3D behaviors with implicit coordination in underwater robots.

“Insights from this research will help us develop future miniature underwater swarms that can perform environmental monitoring and search in visually-rich but fragile environments like coral reefs,” Nagpal said. “This research also paves a way to better understand fish schools, by synthetically recreating their behavior.”

The research is published in Science Robotics, with Florian Berlinger as first author. Berlinger said the “Bluedot” robots integrate a trio of blue LED lights, a lithium-polymer battery, a pair of cameras, a Raspberry Pi computer and four controllable fins within a 3D-printed hull. The fish-lens cameras detect LED’s of their fellow swimmers, and apply a custom algorithm to calculate distance, direction and heading.

Based on that simple production and detection of LED light, the team proved that Blueswarm could self-organize behaviors, including aggregation, dispersal and circle formation—basically, swimming in a clockwise synchronization. Researchers also simulated a successful search mission, an autonomous Finding Nemo. Using their dispersion algorithm, the robot school spread out until one could detect a red light in the tank. Its blue LEDs then flashed, triggering the aggregation algorithm to gather the school around it. Such a robot swarm might prove valuable in search-and-rescue missions at sea, covering miles of open water and reporting back to its mates.

“Each Bluebot implicitly reacts to its neighbors’ positions,” Berlinger said. The fish—RoboCod, perhaps?—also integrate a Wifi module to allow uploading new behaviors remotely. The lab’s previous efforts include a 1,000-strong army of “Kilobots,” and a robotic construction crew inspired by termites. Both projects operated in two-dimensional space. But a 3D environment like air or water posed a tougher challenge for sensing and movement.

In nature, Berlinger notes, there’s no scaly CEO to direct the school’s movements. Nor do fish communicate their intentions. Instead, so-called “implicit coordination” guides the school’s collective behavior, with individual members executing high-speed moves based on what they see their neighbors doing. That decentralized, autonomous organization has long fascinated scientists, including in robotics.

“In these situations, it really benefits you to have a highly autonomous robot swarm that is self-sufficient. By using implicit rules and 3D visual perception, we were able to create a system with a high degree of autonomy and flexibility underwater where things like GPS and WiFi are not accessible.”

Berlinger adds the research could one day translate to anything that requires decentralized robots, from self-driving cars and Amazon warehouse vehicles to exploration of faraway planets, where poor latency makes it impossible to transmit commands quickly. Today’s semi-autonomous cars face their own technical hurdles in reliably sensing and responding to their complex environments, including when foul weather obscures onboard sensors or road markers, or when they can’t fix position via GPS. An entire subset of autonomous-car research involves vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications that could give cars a hive mind to guide individual or collective decisions— avoiding snarled traffic, driving safely in tight convoys, or taking group evasive action during a crash that’s beyond their sensory range.

“Once we have millions of cars on the road, there can’t be one computer orchestrating all the traffic, making decisions that work for all the cars,” Berlinger said.

The miniature robots could also work long hours in places that are inaccessible to humans and divers, or even large tethered robots. Nagpal said the synthetic swimmers could monitor and collect data on reefs or underwater infrastructure 24/7, and work into tiny places without disturbing fragile equipment or ecosystems.

“If we could be as good as fish in that environment, we could collect information and be non-invasive, in cluttered environments where everything is an obstacle,” Nagpal said. Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots

#438012 Video Friday: These Robots Have Made 1 ...

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]
Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos.

We're proud to announce Starship Delivery Robots have now completed 1,000,000 autonomous deliveries around the world. We were unsure where the one millionth delivery was going to take place, as there are around 15-20 service areas open globally, all with robots doing deliveries every minute. In the end it took place at Bowling Green, Ohio, to a student called Annika Keeton who is a freshman studying pre-health Biology at BGSU. Annika is now part of Starship’s history!

[ Starship ]

I adore this little DIY walking robot- with modular feet and little dials to let you easily adjust the walking parameters, it's an affordable kit that's way more nuanced than most.

It's called Bakiwi, and it costs €95. A squee cover made from feathers or fur is an extra €17. Here's a more serious look at what it can do:

[ Bakiwi ]

Thanks Oswald!

Savva Morozov, an AeroAstro junior, works on autonomous navigation for the MIT mini cheetah robot and reflects on the value of a crowded Infinite Corridor.

[ MIT ]

The world's most advanced haptic feedback gloves just got a huge upgrade! HaptX Gloves DK2 achieves a level of realism that other haptic devices can't match. Whether you’re training your workforce, designing a new product, or controlling robots from a distance, HaptX Gloves make it feel real.

They're the only gloves with true-contact haptics, with patented technology that displace your skin the same way a real object would. With 133 points of tactile feedback per hand, for full palm and fingertip coverage. HaptX Gloves DK2 feature the industry's most powerful force feedback, ~2X the strength of other force feedback gloves. They're also the most accurate motion tracking gloves, with 30 tracked degrees of freedom, sub-millimeter precision, no perceivable latency, and no occlusion.

[ HaptX ]

Yardroid is an outdoor robot “guided by computer vision and artificial intelligence” that seems like it can do almost everything.

These are a lot of autonomous capabilities, but so far, we've only seen the video. So, best not to get too excited until we know more about how it works.

[ Yardroid ]

Thanks Dan!

Since as far as we know, Pepper can't spread COVID, it had a busy year.

I somehow missed seeing that chimpanzee magic show, but here it is:

[ Simon Pierro ] via [ SoftBank Robotics ]

In spite of the pandemic, Professor Hod Lipson’s Robotics Studio persevered and even thrived— learning to work on global teams, to develop protocols for sharing blueprints and code, and to test, evaluate, and refine their designs remotely. Equipped with a 3D printer and a kit of electronics prototyping equipment, our students engineered bipedal robots that were conceptualized, fabricated, programmed, and endlessly iterated around the globe in bedrooms, kitchens, backyards, and any other makeshift laboratory you can imagine.

[ Hod Lipson ]

Thanks Fan!

We all know how much quadrupeds love ice!

[ Ghost Robotics ]

We took the opportunity of the last storm to put the Warthog in the snow of Université Laval. Enjoy!

[ Norlab ]

They've got a long way to go, but autonomous indoor firefighting drones seem like a fantastic idea.

[ CTU ]

Individual manipulators are limited by their vertical total load capacity. This places a fundamental limit on the weight of loads that a single manipulator can move. Cooperative manipulation with two arms has the potential to increase the net weight capacity of the overall system. However, it is critical that proper load sharing takes place between the two arms. In this work, we outline a method that utilizes mechanical intelligence in the form of a whiffletree.

And your word of the day is whiffletree, which is “a mechanism to distribute force evenly through linkages.”

[ DART Lab ]

Thanks Raymond!

Some highlights of robotic projects at FZI in 2020, all using ROS.

[ FZI ]

Thanks Fan!

iRobot CEO Colin Angle threatens my job by sharing some cool robots.

[ iRobot ]

A fascinating new talk from Henry Evans on robotic caregivers.

[ HRL ]

The ANA Avatar XPRIZE semifinals selection submission for Team AVATRINA. The setting is a mock clinic, with the patient sitting on a wheelchair and nurse having completed an initial intake. Avatar enters the room controlled by operator (Doctor). A rolling tray table with medical supplies (stethoscope, pulse oximeter, digital thermometer, oxygen mask, oxygen tube) is by the patient’s side. Demonstrates head tracking, stereo vision, fine manipulation, bimanual manipulation, safe impedance control, and navigation.


This five year old talk from Mikell Taylor, who wrote for us a while back and is now at Amazon Robotics, is entitled “Nobody Cares About Your Robot.” For better or worse, it really doesn't sound like it was written five years ago.

Robotics for the consumer market – Mikell Taylor from Scott Handsaker on Vimeo.

[ Mikell Taylor ]

Fall River Community Media presents this wonderful guy talking about his love of antique robot toys.

If you enjoy this kind of slow media, Fall River also has weekly Hot Dogs Cool Cats adoption profiles that are super relaxing to watch.

[ YouTube ] Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots

#437971 Video Friday: Teleport Yourself Into ...

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]
RoboSoft 2021 – April 12-16, 2021 – [Online]
Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos.

Samsung announced some new prototype robots at CES this week. It's a fancy video, but my guess is that the actual autonomy here is minimal at best.

[ Samsung ]

Some very impressive reactive agility from Ghost Robotics' little quadruped.

[ Ghost Robotics ]

Toyota Research Institute (TRI) is researching how to bring together the instinctive reflexes of professional drivers and automated driving technology that uses the calculated foresight of a supercomputer. Using a Toyota GR Supra, TRI will learn from some of the most skilled drivers in the world to develop sophisticated vehicle control algorithms. The project’s goal is to design a new level of active safety technology for the Toyota Guardian™ approach of amplifying human driving abilities and helping keep people safe.

[ TRI ]

The end of this video features one of the most satisfying-sounding drone outtakes I've ever heard,

[ ASL ]

Reachy can now run the first humanoid VR teleoperation app available on the market. This app allows you to place yourself in the body of a humanoid robot, in VR, wherever you are in the world, to remotely operate it and carry out complex tasks. With this new functionality, Reachy is able to learn from the demonstration of the humans who control it, which makes application development even easier.

[ Pollen Robotics ]

Thanks Elsa!

Boston Dynamics has inspired some dancing robot videos recently, including this from Marco Tempest.

[ Marco Tempest ]

MOFLIN is an AI Pet created from a totally new concept. It possesses emotional capabilities that evolve like living animals. With its warm soft fur, cute sounds, and adorable movement, you’d want to love it forever. We took a nature inspired approach and developed a unique algorithm that allows MOFLIN to learn and grow by constantly using its interactions to determine patterns and evaluate its surroundings from its sensors. MOFLIN will choose from an infinite number of mobile and sound pattern combinations to respond and express its feelings. To put it in simple terms, it’s like you’re interacting with a living pet.

I like the minimalist approach. I dislike the “it’s like you’re interacting with a living pet” bit.

[ Kickstarter ]

There's a short gif of these warehouse robots going around, but here's the full video.

[ BionicHIVE ]

Vstone's Robovie-Z proves that you don't need fancy hardware for effective teleworking.

[ Vstone ]

All dual-arm robots are required, at some point, to play pool.

[ ABB ]

Volkswagen Group Components gives us a first glimpse of the real prototypes. This is one of the visionary charging concepts that Volkswagen hopes will expand the charging infrastructure over the next few years. Its task: fully autonomous charging of vehicles in restricted parking areas, like underground car parks.

To charge several vehicles at the same time, the mobile robot moves a trailer, essentially a mobile energy storage unit, to the vehicle, connects it up and then uses this energy storage unit to charge the battery of the electric vehicle. The energy storage unit stays with the vehicle during the charging process. In the meantime, the robot charges other electric vehicles.

[ Volkswagen ]

I've got a lot of questions about Moley Robotics' kitchen. But I would immediately point out that the system appears to do no prep work, which (at least for me) is the time-consuming and stressful part of cooking.

[ Moley Robotics ]

Blueswarm is a collective of fish-inspired miniature underwater robots that can achieve a wide variety of 3D collective behaviors – synchrony, aggregation/dispersion, milling, search – using only implicit communication mediated through the production and sensing of blue light. We envision this platform for investigating collective AI, underwater coordination, and fish-inspired locomotion and sensing.

[ Science Robotics ]

A team of Malaysian researchers are transforming pineapple leaves into strong materials that can be used to build frames for unmanned aircraft or drones.

[ Reuters ]

The future of facility disinfecting is here, protect your customers, and create peace of mind. Our drone sanitization spraying technology is up to 100% more efficient and effective than conventional manual spray sterilization processes.

[ Draganfly ]

Robots are no long a future technology, as small robots can be purchased today to be utilized for educational purposes. See what goes into making a modern robot come to life.

[ Huggbees ]

How does a robot dog learn how to dance? Adam and the Tested team examine and dive into Boston Dynamics' Choreographer software that was behind Spot's recent viral dancing video.

[ Tested ]

For years, engineers have had to deal with “the tyranny of the fairing,” that anything you want to send into space has to fit into the protective nosecone on top of the rocket. A field of advanced design has been looking for new ways to improve our engineering, using the centuries-old artform to dream bigger.

[ JPL ] Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots