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BADGER underground digging robot

EU Developing Robot Badgers for Underground Excavation

These days, you can find capable and confident robots driving, flying, swimming, diving, out in space, and even boring through ice. What we haven’t seen a lot of are robots designed to dig underground. There have been a few self-burying robots that use digging to their advantage, but they’re not designed for underground locomotion. This is slightly strange, to be honest, considering how many animals make their living by digging tunnels, and also considering how often we humans need to do useful things underground.

The European Union is sponsoring a project to make underground robotics happen through the development of a “robotic system that will be able to drill, maneuver, localize, map and navigate in the underground space, and which will be equipped with tools for constructing horizontal and vertical networks of stable bores and pipelines.” Called BADGER (roBot for Autonomous nDerGround trenchless opERations, mapping and navigation), it is both an interesting and innovative idea and also the most ridiculous acronym I have ever seen.

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Valykrie

Video Friday: Crashen Hoppers, Gimball Games, and a Fake Moon Landing

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!):

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
RoboCup 2017 – July 27-31, 2017 – Nagoya, Japan
IEEE CASE 2017 – August 20-23, 2017 – Xi’an, China
IEEE ICARM 2017 – August 27-31, 2017 – Hefei, China

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


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Salto-1P Is the Most Amazing Jumping Robot We've Ever Seen

Salto-1P Is the Most Amazing Jumping Robot We've Ever Seen

Last December, Duncan Haldane (whose research on incredibly agile bioinspired robots we’ve featured extensively in the past) ended up on the cover of the inaugural issue of Science Robotics with his jumping robot, Salto. Salto had impressive vertical jumping agility, and was able to jump from the ground onto a vertical surface, and then use that surface to change its direction with a second jump. It was very cool to watch, but the jumping was open-loop and planar, meaning that two jumps in a row was just about all that Salto could manage.

Haldane mentioned to us in December that future work on Salto could include chaining together multiple jumps, and in a paper just accepted to the 2017 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), he and co-author Justin Yim at UC Berkeley’s Biomimetic Millisystems Lab, led by Professor Ronald Fearingshow the improvements that they’ve made over the last six months. Thanks to some mechanical fine-tuning and the clever addition of a pair of thrusters, the new Salto-1P is jumping longer, faster, and higher than ever. Prepare to be amazed.

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ABB YuMi arm grasps objects using Dex-Net 2.0 from UC Berkeley's AUTOLAB

UC Berkeley Releases Massive Dex-Net 2.0 Dataset

Picking things up is such a fundamental skill for robots, and robots have been picking up things for such a long time, that it’s sometimes difficult to understand how challenging grasping still is. Robots that are good at grasping things usually depend on high quality sensor data along with some amount of advance knowledge about the things that they’re going to be grasping. Where grasping gets really tricky is when you’re trying to design a system that can use standardized (and affordable) grippers and sensors to reliably pick up almost anything, including that infinitely long tail of objects that are, for whatever reason, weird and annoying to grasp.

One way around this is to design grasping hardware that uses clever tricks (like enveloping grasps or adhesives) to compensate for not really knowing the best way to pick up a given object, but this may not be a long-term sustainable approach: Solving the problem in software is much more efficient and scalable, if you can pull it off. “I’ve been studying robot grasping for 30 years and I’m convinced that the key to reliable robot grasping is the perception and control software, not the hardware,” Ken Goldberg, a professor of robotics and director of the AUTOLAB at UC Berkeley, told us this week.

Today, Professor Goldberg and AUTOLAB researcher Jeff Mahler are announcing the release of an enormous dataset that provides the foundation for Dex-Net 2.0, a project that uses neural networks to develop highly reliable robot grasping across a wide variety of rigid objects. The dataset consists of 6.7 million point object point clouds, accompanying parallel-jaw gripper poses, along with a robustness estimate of how likely it is that the grasp will be able to lift and carry the object, and now you can use it to train your own grasping system.

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Anki's Cozmo robot will teach kids to code

Anki's Code Lab Brings Sophisticated Graphical Programming to Cozmo Robot

When Anki introduced Cozmo almost exactly one year ago, we started off with a bit of skepticism, and a feeling that Anki was going slightly overboard with the kinds of promises that it was making for this cute and capable little robot. What was more exciting to us was when Anki followed up a few weeks later with Cozmo’s software development kit, or SDK, allowing access to a variety of very sophisticated features through relatively simple lines of code.

Instead of having to worry about the software necessary for navigation, object recognition, manipulation, and all of that complicated robotics programming, Cozmo already knows how to do it and gives you direct access to its capabilities, all on a robot that will cost you under US $200.

Today, Anki is announcing Code Lab, which takes that SDK and adds a graphical drag-and-drop interface that makes it incredibly simple to get Cozmo to do complex tasks involving vision, manipulation, and decision making, even if you have zero programming experience. It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s affordable, and last week, we tried it out for ourselves, with a little help from Anki co-founder and president Hanns Tappeiner.

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Self-driving potato

Video Friday: Self-Driving Potato, NASA at Mars, and Autonomous Sumo Robots

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!):

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
RoboCup 2017 – July 27-31, 2017 – Nagoya, Japan
IEEE CASE 2017 – August 20-23, 2017 – Xi’an, China

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


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The most efficient way to exploring other planets may be sending humans to orbit, and letting robots do everything else

Are Telepresence Robots the Best Way to Explore Other Worlds?

As we start looking towards more comprehensive exploration of the Moon and of Mars, the assumption is that we’re working on sending humans to the surface of those worlds. It’s going to be exponentially more difficult and dangerous than sending robots, but that’s what exploration is all about, right?

There’s an article in the current issue of Science Robotics that discusses an alternative approach—a kind of compromise between sending only humans or only robots. The idea is using robotic telepresence for planetary exploration. From orbit, the authors argue, a small team of humans would remote operate rovers and other robotic systems and as a result they could do more exploration while keeping the overall mission safer and cheaper.

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Voliro Hexcopter Uses Rotating Nacelles to Perform Versatile Acrobatics

Voliro Hexcopter Uses Rotating Nacelles to Perform Versatile Acrobatics

Last month, we wrote about ETH Zurich’s Omnicopter, a flying cube with rotors providing thrust in lots of different directions that allow the drone to translate and rotate arbitrarily. This is very handy, for lots of different reasons, but the Omnicopter itself is rather bulky and seems destined to live out its life in a Swiss laboratory.

A team of undergrads at ETH Zurich has taken the idea behind the Omnicopter and designed an even more versatile flying robot. Voliro offers the same kind of decoupled position and attitude control, except that instead of a cube full of rotors oriented in different directions, this drone uses rotating nacelles that can turn it from a traditional hexcopter into something much more versatile and acrobatic.

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Valkyrie humanoid robot

Video Friday: Valkyrie on Rough Terrain, Harvard Arthropods, and Flying Wheeled Robot

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!):

RoboBoat 2017 – June 20-20, 2017 – Daytona Beach, Fl., USA
Aerial Robotics International Research Symposium – June 21-22, 2017 – Toronto, ON, 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
RoboCup 2017 – July 27-31, 2017 – Nagoya, Japan

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


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Georgia Tech's Shimon musical robot uses AI to compose completely original music

Four-Armed Marimba Robot Uses Deep Learning to Compose Its Own Music

The Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology, led by Gil Weinberg, has a reputation for doing incredible musical things with robots, with a mix of creativity and technical expertise in robotics and AI. We’ve seen projects like a cybernetic second arm for a drummer, a cybernetic third arm (!) for a drummer, and a bunch of interesting research on ways that robots can dynamically collaborate with humans in the context of improvisational music. That last thing usually features Shimon, a four-armed expressive robotic marimba player, which can analyze music in real time and improvise along with human performers.

It’s an impressive thing to watch, but Shimon’s talents were mostly restricted to riffing on what other human musicians were doing. Now, Shimon has leveraged deep learning to create structured and coherent and totally unique compositions of its very own. 

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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.
Contact us:  e.guizzo@ieee.org

Editor
Erico Guizzo
New York City
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Washington, D.C.
 

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