Video Friday: Ninja NAO, Robotic Refueling, and Too Many Legs

It's hard not to notice that that three of our four posts this week featured flying robots in one form or another. This isn't something that we do intentionally: our normal technique for coming up with subjects for articles is to just pick the absolute coolest thing that's happened in the last day or two, and sometimes, it's all about the flying robots.

What's worth pointing out, though, is that in general, it's true that there's been a heck of a lot of innovation in flying robots relatively recently. This week's mix of pure DIY goodness, a research project, and the (rumored) buyout of a UAV company provides a halfway decent summary of the aspects of this subfield of robotics that are being actively (and successfully) pursued. And then we had a dude with a cyborg arm playing drums, because we have to mix it up a little bit, right?

And we'll continue to mix it up with some awesome videos, because that's what Fridays are all about.

NASA has this dream that they're going to one day be able to send robots up to service satellites, topping them off with fuel to keep them running longer. We've written about this work in progress, and here's an update:

[ NASA ]

 


 

Do u want a robot Arm? Have a look at uArm (now on Kickstarter), which will bypass a whole bunch of middlemen and ship straight to you from China now that the crowdfunding campaign has blown way past its goal. For $185, you get a complete kit, with all of the structural components for the four-axis arm, plus four servos and an Arduino and everything else you'll need. Available upgrades include Bluetooth control and a nifty little vacuum kit to enable it to pick up things with suction.

[ Kickstarter ] via [ Wired ]

 


 

How many legs is too many legs for a walking robot? Not sixteen, that's for sure. This custom, um, dioctopod (right?) from Beatty Robotics was inspired by Theo Jansens' Strandbeests, but it's got a mind of its own (and some electronics, too):

[ Beatty Robotics ]

 


 

TU Delft has these "factory-in-a-day" workshops where they look at a factory job done by a human, and try to get a robot to put that human out of work in just a day (or maybe two). The end result isn't flawless, but it only reflects a weekend's worth of work, so it's quite impressive nonetheless:

[ TU Delft ]

 


 

I had no idea that Nao was a ninja who can also play Connect Four, thereby fulfilling 2/3 of my robot fantasies at the same time.

 

[ Aldebaran Robotics ]

 


 

Obviously, this is a commercial and not real, but couldn't we make it real? Couldn't we? Because I'm thirsty.

Via [ Gizmodo ]

 


 

I don't know how Shadow does it, but their hand videos always creep me out a little bit. I think it's a combination of the lifelike motion and the not at all lifelike sound that accompanies that motion. This particular demo is showing off Syntouch's BioTac sensors:

[ Shadow Robot Company ] and [ Syntouch ]

 


 

Robots-Dreams has some of highlights from ROBO-ONE in Japan, including the championship battle, and a demo of our favorite five-legged robot:

 

[ Robots-Dreams ]

 


 

Team Blacksheep hits Macao, because it's a cool place that they haven't been yet and this is what they do:

[ Team Blacksheep ]

 


 

Whether or not you're a fan of Google Glass, it's hard to deny that you can do some nifty stuff with it, especially where robots are concerned:

[ NIMBUS Lab ]

 


 

It's not an unstoppable swarm yet, but we're starting to get super excited for the release DASH Robotics' little insect bots:

[ DASH Robotics ]

 


 

First, watch the video, and then read the entertaining story of how Captain Dave Anderson managed to record it:

Capt. Dave had to film this off a small inflatable boat, launching and catching the quadcopter drone by hand where a miss could mean injury to him from the four propeller blades or loss of the drone. He actually lost one drone on takeoff when it nicked his small VHF radio antenna on the 14 foot rigid inflatable he was filming from and it went into the water. Alone six miles offshore Capt. Dave , without thinking , dove into the cold, late-January waters off Dana Point to retrieve the valuable footage taken on a flight a half hour earlier that morning. "I had my hat and glasses on, I was fully clothed with long-johns on to keep warm and my cell phone and wallet in my pocket," Captain Dave explained. "It was a stupid move, but the copter started sinking so fast it was my only hope to get the amazing footage I had just shot". Since then he has attached flotation to the skids, which would save the footage, but every flight over the water still risks the DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter with a small GoPro HERO3 Black camera on it, as the $1,700 rig is not waterproof and the skids will not keep it upright on the ocean.

"I get so nervous every flight over the water now, after the accident, my hands start shaking," explains Capt. Dave. "My wife says no more drones if I lose this one. But she said that before I lost the other one. Now that she's seen what it can do, I think she's just as hooked as I am".

"This technology, that offers such steady footage from the air for such a low price and is so easy to fly, is new. This was a ten or twenty thousand dollar copter a few years ago and flying those took a great deal of skill. I can't wait to see what footage this year will bring with this drone, getting a different perspective on the amazing sightings we already have off Dana Point. There is debate in many states right now about making use of these drones illegal. People are justifiably concerned about invasion of privacy. But it would be a shame to have this new window into a whale's world taken away."

[ Dolphin Safari ]

 


 

This has to be one of the beefiest robotic exoskeletons I've ever seen:

[ BBC ] via [ Popular Science ]

 


 

Team IHMC put together this absolutely fantastic video about their experiences at the DRC Trials. It's very well done, and worth your 17 minutes to watch all the way through to the end.

[ Team IHMC ]

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Automaton

IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
Contact us:  e.guizzo@ieee.org

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Erico Guizzo
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