Video Friday: Comet Landing, DJI Inspire Drone, and Giant Fighting Robots

Image: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA
Composite image of lander Philae on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. One of the lander’s three feet can be seen in the foreground.

All other robotics news this week pales in comparison to the Philae robotic lander making a successful(ish) landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after more than 10 years travelling through space. Last we heard, though, due to misbehaving harpoons, Philae bounced a few times off the surface and ended up in some shade at the base of a cliff. The lander needs to change its position in order to try to get enough sunlight onto its solar panels. The European Space Agency (ESA) isn’t quite sure how they’re going to make that happen, at least not yet, but we have their most recent video update and the rest of the videos of the week for you right here.

The latest from the ESA’s YouTube channel doesn’t say much (it’s 17 hours old as we’re putting this post together on Thursday night), but if you missed a bit of what happened, it’s a reasonably good (albeit brief) overview of how the landing went:

We’ll be updating our Rosetta and Phila coverage as soon as the ESA decides what it’s going to do (and tells us).

[ Rosetta ]

Robots are very good at falling. They’re so good at falling that they can do it all by themselves, without you even programming them to do it. What they’re not good at is falling in a way that doesn’t cause tremendous amounts of damage when they land. Georgia Tech researchers are taking inspiration from cats to try and teach robots how to orient themselves while falling to keep damage to a minimum:

This research, by Karen Liu, was presented at IROS this year, but because she didn’t bring any cats and wasn’t throwing robots off balconies, we apparently missed seeing it in person.

[ Georgia Tech ]

DJI announced a fancy new drone this week called the Inspire 1. It’s designed for professional filmmaking, with a stabilized camera that captures in 4k and a rotor structure that rises up out of the shot. Check it out:

And, thoughtfully, there’s an SDK:

Yours for just under $3,000.

[ DJI ]

Here it is, your moment of zen. If, of course, your particular flavor of zen includes robot arms and huge piles of trash:

We're extremely excited to present to you the Next Generation ZenRobotics Recycler! The Next Generation ZRR is faster, can sort huge objects and reaches a whole 2 meter along the sorting belt. Human wastesorting simply cannot be compared with the power, stamina and speed of the ZRR – we humans have now lost the race against the raging sorting robots!

[ Zen Robotics ]

This has to be one of the most innovative snake robots we’ve ever seen, since it’s made entirely of wheels:

[ Suzumori Lab ]

Try and punch this robot arm. Go on, just try:

[ Robai ]

Virginia Tech’s Team Valor is hard at work on their DRC humanoid, and in the video below they demonstrate “compliant disturbance rejection using whole-body control.” In other words, if you shove the robot with a stick while it’s walking or balancing on one foot, it won’t immediately topple over.

Now show us a crane kick, because all the cool robots are doing it.

“Humanoid Locomotion on Uneven Terrain Using the Time-Varying Divergent Component of Motion," by M. A. Hopkins, D. W. Hong, and A. Leonessa, is being presented at the IEEE International Conference on Humanoid Robots this month.

[ Virginia Tech’s TREC Lab ]

Thanks Eric!

If you missed the 2014 Stanford-Berkeley Robotics Symposium, all of the presentation videos are now online. You can get to them by clicking the link on the schedule here, but we’ve pulled out three of our favorites. There isn’t a lot of brand new stuff, but the vids are a great way to get an up-to-date overview of what entire labs have been up to over the last few years.

Mark Cutkosky, Stanford University: Adhesive Scaling

Ron Fearing, UC Berkeley: Dynamic Locomotion With Millibots

Oussama Khatib, Stanford University: Working With Robots

[ SBRS 2014 ]

We’ve been posting vids from AUVSI's RobotX competition for the past few weeks, and here's two more that handily wrap everything up in just a few minutes:

And if you have a bit more time to invest, a 15-minute piece on why it’s important that RobotX is happening:

[ RobotX ]

Japan has created a real Transformer:

“Japanese engineers have something that children of the 80's are surely longing to have: the 4-foot tall Transformer robot which has the ability to go from robot to sports car. In its vehicle form, the robot can drive up to 6 miles per hour (mph) as a two-seater car with about 1.5 inches of room clearance. In its humanoid form, it can walk at 0.6 mph.The transformer robot is called 'J-deite quarter', and weighs 77lbs (35kg). It was unveiled at the annual Digital Content Expo in Tokyo on October 23.”

[ YouTube ]

Travis from Hizook posted a fantastic and comprehensive article on the robots that inspired Baymax in Big Hero Six. The highlight was certainly the following video, of Travis’ wife Fei investigating a soft robot arm from Pneubotics and getting punched in the kidney in the process:

[ Hizook ]

Earth has been conquered by robots from a distant galaxy; survivors are confined to their houses and must wear electronic implants, risking incineration by robot sentries if they venture outside.

In robot-occupied Britain, city centres are devastated and a gang of teenagers live in a seaside town constantly under robot threat. Intimidating sentries patrol the streets; snipers are merciless death machines. The Mediator is deceptively childlike but unnervingly coercive. The robot base is The Cube, a massive mother-ship that dominates the horizon.

In theatres March 2015.

[ Robot Overlords ]

ASIMO spent some time in New York recently. The video is a little over 4 minutes long and a lot of it is fluff, but: for 5 seconds, starting at 2:20, ASIMO approaches and climbs a staircase without stoping, which has never been shown before:

[ Honda ASIMO ]

Early this year, Aldebaran and Softbank unveiled a companion humanoid robot called Pepper, which will go on sale in Japan next February. But looks like the French company has even bigger plans, hoping to build new robots for other companies. 

Laura Bokobza, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer for Aldebaran, was invited on the 4th of November 2014 to the Web Summit in Dublin (1st European Conference about Technology and Digital World) to talk about the possibilites that humanoid robotics can offer and how we can design a new world together.

[ Aldebaran Robotics ]

Even robots designed to help us can use our help sometimes.

Second Annual IBM Research Cognitive Systems Colloquium keynote by Manuela Maria Veloso, the Herbert A. Simon Professor in Computer Science and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University: Symbiotic Mobile Robotics

[ IBM Research ]

Finally, here's something exciting to look forward to: giant hydraulic robots fighting to the death with oversized paintball missiles, if this Kickstarter campaign manages to reach its $1.8 million goal in the next two weeks:

[ Megabots ]



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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