Video Friday: DJI Spark Drone, Google Tango, and 18-DOF Hexapod Robot

DJI Spark drone
Photo: DJI
DJI's Spark drone can be launched by hand.

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 two months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

IEEE ICRA – May 29-3, 2017 – Singapore
University Rover Challenge – June 1-13, 2017 – Hanksville, Utah, USA
IEEE World Haptics – June 6-9, 2017 – Munich, Germany
NASA SRC Virtual Competition – June 12-16, 2017 – Online
ICCV 2017 – June 13-16, 2017 – Venice, Italy
RoboBoat 2017 – June 20-20, 2017 – Daytona Beach, Fl., USA
Aerial Robotics International Research Symposium – June 21-22, 2017 – Toronto, Canada
Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics – June 25-28, 2017 – London, England
Autonomous Systems World – June 26-27, 2017 – Berlin, Germany
RoboUniverse Seoul – June 28-30, 2017 – Seoul, Korea
RobotCraft 2017 – July 3-3, 2017 – Coimbra, Portugal
ICAR 2017 – July 10-12, 2017 – Hong Kong
RSS 2017 – July 12-16, 2017 – Cambridge, Mass., USA
MARSS – July 17-21, 2017 – Montreal, Canada
Summer School on Soft Manipulation – July 17-21, 2017 – Lake Chiemsee, Germany
Living Machines Conference – July 25-28, 2017 – Stanford, Calif., USA

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


With its sensing, mapping, and localization capabilities, the Google Tango platform has a lot of promise for robotics. Here’s an update on some of what Google has been working on with it:

And here’s the talk that Johnny Lee from the Tango project gave at Google I/O earlier this month.

Google Tango ]


Flyability’s Elios drone has the ability to fly almost anywhere thanks to the clever design of its roll cage. It’s already been deep down inside glaciers, so the next logical place to send it is a cave:

Flyability took part in the scientific expedition (ref article from ESA) organized by the La Venta Association and Commissione Grotte Eugenio Boegan, together with the European Space Agency and astronaut Luca Parmitano, in the La Cucchiara caves near Sciacca, Sicily. Part of ESA’s Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills course (CAVES-X1), this expedition was primarily meant to train astronauts in an environment replicating extraterrestrial conditions. It has also been the opportunity to deploy Elios in extreme conditions by performing the exploration of an underground abyss.

The known part of the cave consists of a gallery that ends in a 100 m deep abyss. This is as far as humans could go in the exploration and that’s where the collision-tolerant drone was used to continue the journey. With an ambient temperature of 37°C, 100% of humidity and continuous rain from condensation, the Flyability team joining the expedition operated the drone to find potential unexplored paths. Using Elios’ thermal camera to detect hidden hot air sources, the team could very quickly and clearly identify openings of various size.

[ Flyability ] via [ ESA ]

Thanks Adrien!


You should probably not try this with your robot:

Denso Robotics ]


Evezor is a SCARA-type robot arm designed to be able to automate tasks using any tool you decide to strap to it:

It’s a compelling vision, certainly, but the early bird price is over $3,000, and the project is looking for $250k. If you know this is for you, you’ll probably jump on it, but it’s a big investment for most makers.

Evezor ] via [ BBG ]


One of the desires with robotic systems is to devise easier ways to setup and program the robots. One potential approach to setup is known as “Programming by Demonstration” in which a human trainer demonstrates the task to the robot, and from that demonstration the robot learns the task which can be performed. During her summer internship at Fetch Robotics, Sarah Elliott worked on a web-based programming by demonstration system for the Fetch.

[ Fetch Robotics ]


Drone behemoth DJI continues to outdo itself with the launch of Spark, a very compact camera drone with a range of autonomous capabilities, including obstacle sensing, hand-gesture recognition, and pre-programmed flight behaviors like following and circling:

One of the most impressive things is that you get all this for just $500.

[ DJI ]


Introducing Daisy, an 18-DOF hexapod walking robot built from X-Series modular actuators. This robot is now on display the the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry as part of their Robot Revolution exhibit.

Hebi Robotics ] via [ CMU RI ]


I’m not sure that I need my toy racecars to make snarky comments (I do just fine on my own, thank you very much), but the amount of sensing and actuation in Sphero’s latest toy is impressive:

The car will run at up to 10 km/h, make it 40 minutes on a charge, and there are all kinds of moves and sounds that you can control with an app. But along with all of that intelligence and sensing and actuation comes a price to match: the toy is now on sale for $300.

[ Sphero ]


Security robots certainly have value, but the bad guys can probably outrun most of them. That’s not a problem for the O-R3, a security ground robot that can deploy an untethered drone to pursue a suspect:

Otsaw ] via [ Engadget ]


Sweep, the alarmingly affordable high quality lidar sensor from Scanse, is now available with an add-on kit that lets you take 3D scans of very large areas:

The kit is $350, and the lidar itself isn’t included. But you have one on pre-order already anyway, right?

Scanse ]

Thanks Tyson!


Lockheed Martin successfully launched Vector Hawk, a small, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), on command from the Marlin MK2 autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) during a cross-domain command and control event hosted by the U.S. Navy. In addition to Marlin and Vector Hawk, the Submaran, an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) developed by Ocean Aero, provided surface reconnaissance and surveillance. During the Annual Navy Technology Exercise (ANTX) activities in August, the Submaran relayed instructions to Marlin from a ground control station via underwater acoustic communications. Following these instructions, the Marlin launched the Vector Hawk using a specially-designed canister from the surface of the Narragansett Bay. Following launch, Vector Hawk successfully assumed a mission flight track. All three autonomous vehicles—Marlin, Submaran and Vector Hawk—communicated operational status to the ground control station to maintain situational awareness and provide a means to command and control all assets.

The four-pound Vector Hawk can fly for 70-plus minutes, at line-of-sight ranges up to 15 kilometers. Operators can recover and re-launch the Vector Hawk in a matter of minutes (including changing the system’s battery). Vector Hawk is built on an open architecture to enable rapid technology insertion and payload integration. Marlin MK2 is a battery powered, fully autonomous underwater vehicle that is 10 feet long with a 250 pound payload capacity, 18-24 hour endurance, depth rating of 1000 feet and weighs approximately 2,000 pounds.

[ Lockheed Martin ]


Scientists at Scuola Sant’Anna in Italy and EPFL (Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) in Switzerland have built a prototype of a smart, light-weight and easy-to-personalize exoskeleton that counteracts the loss of balance and promotes balance recovery after an accidental slip. This is a first in wearable machines, which are normally used to assist or enhance regular movement, instead of preventing an unexpected event like falling.

[ EPFL ]


The EduExo is a robotic exoskeleton kit that you assemble and program yourself. It contains the hardware that you need to build an elbow exoskeleton. An accompanying handbook contains a tutorial that will guide you through the different assembly steps. In addition, the handbook provides background information on exoskeleton history, functionality and technology. In the end, you will have a good understanding about exoskeleton technology and its application, together with hands-on experience building and programming your own robotic exoskeleton.

The Kickstarter is already funded, but you can pledge $180 towards a kit, or $250 if you want a kit that includes muscle control.

[ EduExo ]


The Acorn team has deployed a Sawyer collaborative robot operating a band saw, where the robot transfers, aligns and cuts pieces of wood to be used as mounts for rubber stamps. Sawyer cuts, drills and inserts the wooden handles for the stamp mounts, effectively automating a complicated, multi-step process.

[ Rethink Robotics ]


The Office of Naval Research (ONR) TechSolutions-sponsored Mine Warfare Rapid Assessment Capability (mRAC) is a man-portable threat detection and localization system that utilizes an ultra-sensitive magnetometer sensor package installed onboard a small quadrotor platform.

[ ONR ]


Elad Inbar CEO & Founder of RobotLAB Inc talking with the Learning Counsel about STEM, robotics and the ways in which schools can use technology to reimagine classroom learning.

[ RobotLAB ]

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IEEE Spectrum’s award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, drones, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
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