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Whip tail robot

Whip-Tail Robot Learning to Manipulate Objects Like Indiana Jones

Robots are learning how to use tails in all sorts of different ways. U.C. Berkeley had that brilliant idea of using an active tail to control the orientation of a robot in mid air, and that basic idea has expanded to running robots with and even robotic cars looking for hyper maneuverability. The thing that all of these robots have in common with each other, and with animals, is that their tails are actuated: in order to function, they depend on motors to get them to move around and do stuff. And of course they’re actuated, because what use would they be if you couldn’t control them?

Young-Ho Kim and Dylan A. Shell from Texas A&M University recently published a paper in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters on “Using a Compliant, Unactuated Tail to Manipulate Objects.” Rather than relying on motors to actuate the tail, they hooked up a “a flexible rope-like structure” (aka a piece of rope, as far as we can tell) to a little RC car to see what they could do with it. You can think of the tail like Indiana Jones’ whip, and just like Indy has shown us across four and a half movies, there’s a lot you can do with some cleverly manipulated rope if you know what you’re doing.

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Quadcopter flies close to a window

Maybe Drone Privacy Shouldn't Be a Federal Case

Yesterday, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s new drone rules went into effect. While many drone enthusiasts were pleased to see some long-awaited progress on this front, the folks at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a privacy advocacy organization in Washington, D.C., don’t count in that group. They’ve been wrangling in court with the FAA over the lack of privacy safeguards in the new regulations—an issue that has dogged drone regulation for years.

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Humanoid robot Socibot gets its neck tested by Engineered Arts

Video Friday: Octopus Robot, Solar Drone, and Humanoid Neck Test

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your thick-necked 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!):

RO-MAN 2016 – August 26-31, 2016 – New York, N.Y., USA
ECAI 2016 – August 29-2, 2016 – The Hague, Holland
NASA SRRC Level 2 – September 2-5, 2016 – Worcester, Mass., USA
ISyCoR 2016 – September 7-9, 2016 – Ostrava, Czech Republic
European Rover Challenge – September 10-13, 2016 – Podkarpackie, Poland
Gigaom Change – September 21-23, 2016 – Austin, Texas, USA
RoboBusiness – September 28-29, 2016 – San Jose, Calif., USA
HFR 2016 – September 29-30, 2016 – Genoa, Italy
ISER 2016 – October 3-6, 2016 – Tokyo, Japan
Cybathlon Symposium – October 07, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
Cybathalon 2016 – October 08, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
Robotica 2016 Brazil – October 8-12, 2016 – Recife, Brazil
ROSCon 2016 – October 8-9, 2016 – Seoul, Korea
IROS 2016 – October 9-14, 2016 – Daejon, Korea


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


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Parrot Disco drone flying

Flying Parrot's Disco Drone: An Enormous Amount of Almost-Affordable Fun

Yesterday morning, Parrot announced everything that you get with its new Disco drone, and it’s more than just the drone itself: You also get Parrot’s Skycontroller 2 and Parrot’s Cockpitglasses, which work as a FPV (first-person view) headset after you insert your smartphone in it. The kit will be available this September and will cost US $1,300. We were in Palm Springs, Calif., for the announcement, and we spent several hours with Disco out on a golf course in 106-degree heat, trying to find out whether the drone is worth the price, especially for someone who might be new to fixed-wing flight.

We came away with a bad sunburn and lot of impressions. There’s a reason that Disco is so expensive: Parrot stuffed it with some really sophisticated hardware and software, and that comes at a cost. But the result is a drone that is incredibly simple to fly for beginners and still a ton of fun for experienced pilots. The Disco is astonishingly robust, has spectacular video-capture capabilities, and comes with an FPV system that works great right out of the box. Is it worth it? Everything we learned is right after the break.

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Parrot Disco FPV drone

Parrot's Disco Drone Lets You Take to the Sky in Immersive FPV

Parrot defined the consumer quadrotor with its excellent (and affordable) AR Drone, which was first announced at CES 2010. Since then, Parrot has been expanding its quadrotor lineup, with mini quadrotors, wheeled quadrotors, semi-aquatic quadrotors, and quadrotors with beastly cameras inside of them.

At CES 2016, Parrot announced something new: a fixed wing drone called Disco, which promised a totally different flying experience. With a top speed of 70 kilometeres per hour, a flight time of 45 minutes, and a design that might even be (relatively) crash-friendly, Disco is totally different from the experience that you get with a quadcopter.

Today, Disco is official, and as it turns out, we’re not just getting a new fixed-wing drone: Parrot is bundling Disco with a complete first-person view, or FPV, system. You get the drone, a completely redesigned long-range Skycontroller, and Parrot Cockpitglasses, which turn your smartphone into an immersive display that lets you fly from the perspective of the drone itself.

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Video Friday

Video Friday: Robo Foosball, Fetch Snackbot, and Europa Submarine

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!):

RO-MAN 2016 – August 26-31, 2016 – New York, N.Y., USA
ECAI 2016 – August 29-2, 2016 – The Hague, Holland
NASA SRRC Level 2 – September 2-5, 2016 – Worcester, Mass., USA
ISyCoR 2016 – September 7-9, 2016 – Ostrava, Czech Republic
European Rover Challenge – September 10-13, 2016 – Podkarpackie, Poland
Gigaom Change – September 21-23, 2016 – Austin, Texas, USA
RoboBusiness – September 28-29, 2016 – San Jose, Calif., USA
HFR 2016 – September 29-30, 2016 – Genoa, Italy
ISER 2016 – October 3-6, 2016 – Tokyo, Japan
Cybathlon Symposium – October 07, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
Cybathalon 2016 – October 08, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
Robotica 2016 Brazil – October 8-12, 2016 – Recife, Brazil
ROSCon 2016 – October 8-9, 2016 – Seoul, Korea
IROS 2016 – October 9-14, 2016 – Daejon, South Korea


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


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NASA Space Robotics Challenge R5 Valkyrie humanoid robot

NASA's Space Robotics Challenge: The Tasks, the Prizes, and How to Participate

Last year at the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, NASA announced a new challenge for humanoid robots: the Space Robotics Challenge (SRC), which will “prepare robots for the journey to Mars.” Just like the DRC, the first stage of the SRC will consist of a virtual challenge, run in the Gazebo simulator, followed up by a physical challenge using NASA’s R5 Valkyrie robots.

As of yesterday, NASA has opened registration for the SRC, and we’ll take a look at the format of the competition, the challenges that teams will need to complete, and what they can take home for winning.

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GOAT robot leg

GOAT Robot Leg Demonstrates Explosive Jumping

Most legged robots are easily identifiable as such, because we all know what legs look like: they look like legs. Maybe human legs, maybe mammal legs, maybe bird legs, but legs are legs. Where things start to get interesting is when legged robots manifest designs that aren’t (usually) found in nature, like with RHex, which has six springy wheely leggy things that allow it to do some incredible acrobatics.

At Carnegie Mellon University, Simon Kalouche just wrapped up his masters thesis in which he describes the development of a brand new design for “legs capable of dexterous walking, running, and most significantly, explosive omni-directional jumping and actively compliant landing.” That’s the kind of thing we like to hear.

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Abundant Robotics demonstrates a prototype of its autonomous apple picker, which uses machine vision and a vacuum robot arm.

SRI Spin-off Abundant Robotics Developing Autonomous Apple Vacuum

As an apple fan (the delicious fruit, not the horrible-tasting technology company), I take it for granted that apples will be available to me at affordable prices whenever and wherever I want them. This is because I’m a clueless consumer, who had no idea that in 2012, 4.2 million apples were picked in the United States. By hand.

Apple picking is a task that seems like it should be easy to automate: The environment is semistructured, and you’re dealing with objects that are nearly homogenous. At the same time, though, those nearly homogenous objects are often occluded by leaves and branches, and grasping them quickly and delicately enough to compete with humans workers isn’t easy. Robot vision and manipulation have recently advanced just enough to start making autonomous apple harvesting a commercial success, and there are few companies (including FFRobotics) already working in the space.

Last week, SRI International announced a new Silicon Valley spin-off company, Abundant Robotics, which is trying to automate orchard harvests with robotics. From what we can tell, they’re using a sort of horizontally mounted delta robot with a vacuum attachment for gentle high-speed fruit picking, resulting in the cleanest, shiniest apples you’ve ever experienced.

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Upper body mechanism of the child android Affetto developed at Osaka University's Asada Lab.

Video Friday: The Omnicopter, Diving Drones, and Skinless Robot Babies

Editor’s note: Our very first Video Friday post was published on 12 August 2011. This means that today Video Friday is five years old! We’d like to thank you, our loyal readers, for spending your Fridays watching robot videos with us (what could be more important?). And for those of you developing the next-generation of robots at companies, startups, and research labs everywhere, please continue writing us about your projects so we can keep Video Friday going for another half decade.

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your baby-loving 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!):

RO-MAN 2016 – August 26-31, 2016 – New York, N.Y., USA
ECAI 2016 – August 29-2, 2016 – The Hague, Holland
NASA SRRC Level 2 – September 2-5, 2016 – Worcester, Mass., USA
ISyCoR 2016 – September 7-9, 2016 – Ostrava, Czech Republic
European Rover Challenge – September 10-13, 2016 – Podkarpackie, Poland
Gigaom Change – September 21-23, 2016 – Austin, Texas, USA
RoboBusiness – September 28-29, 2016 – San Jose, Calif., USA
ISER 2016 – October 3-6, 2016 – Tokyo, Japan
Cybathlon Symposium – October 07, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
Cybathalon 2016 – October 08, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
Robotica 2016 Brazil – October 8-12, 2016 – Recife, Brazil
ROSCon 2016 – October 8-9, 2016 – Seoul, Korea
IROS 2016 – October 9-14, 2016 – Daejon, South Korea


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


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Automaton

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

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Erico Guizzo
 
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Evan Ackerman
 
 
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Angelica Lim
 

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