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Nao humanoid robot with eyebrows

Video Friday: Pneumatic RoboDog, Drone Crash, and Nao With Eyebrows

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your unibrowed 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 AIM 2016 – July 12-15, 2016 – Banff, Canada
DLMC 2016 – July 13-15, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
ROS Industrial Workshop – July 14-15, 2016 – Singapore
MARSS 2016 – July 18-22, 2016 – Paris, France
IEEE WCCI 2016 – July 25-29, 2016 – Vancouver, Canada
RO-MAN 2016 – August 26-31, 2016 – New York, N.Y., USA
ECAI 2016 – August 29-2, 2016 – The Hague, Holland


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


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Pleurobot salamander robot from EPFL

How EPFL Made Pleurobot the Most Salamanderish Robot Ever

EPFL’s Pleurobot is, obviously, our favorite robot salamander. This is likely because it looks so much like a real salamander, but more importantly, it moves just like a real salamander. Or, to be more specific, EPFL has spent years trying to make sure that the way Pleurobot moves is as close to the way that a real salamander moves as possible.

In a new paper just published in the Royal Society journal Interface, EPFL researchers describe how they’ve combined “high-speed cineradiography, optimization, dynamic scaling, three-dimensional printing, high-end servomotors, and a tailored dry-suit” to refine their robot to accurately capture the degrees of freedom, range of motion, and gait behaviors of the real animal.

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Five Elements Robotics robotic shopping cart

Walmart and Five Elements Robotics Working on Robotic Shopping Cart

It’s been a few years since we first met Five Elements Robotics at RoboBusiness, where they introduced Budgee, a sort of robotic stuff-carrier that will follow you around with up to 22 kilograms of your junk by homing in on a small ultrasonic emitter. Last week at the Bloomberg Technology Conference, Five Elements CEO Wendy Roberts announced that Walmart is evaluating a prototype of a new Five Elements robotic shopping cart called Dash. Dash is much more than an upgraded version of Budgee; it’s a completely new platform, specifically designed for autonomous shopping assistance.

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Anki's Cozmo: the Intelligent Robotic Toy You've Always Wanted, Maybe

Today, Anki, which made its splashy debut a few years back with their little autonomous racing cars, has announced a new robot toy called Cozmo. Cozmo is (according to Anki) “one of the most sophisticated robots available today,” which could be correct depending on your definitions of “one of the most sophisticated,” and “available today.” What does Cozmo do? “He is charming, a bit mischievous, and unpredictable. He recognizes and remembers you. He interacts with you, plays games, and gets to know you over time.”

Sounds interesting, let’s take a look.

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ATRIAS MARLO bipedal robot walking in the forest

Video Friday: Cloud Robotics, MARLO in the Forest, and Eagle Kills Drone

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

RSS 2016 – June 18-22, 2016 – Ann Arbor, Mich., USA
European Land Robot Trial – June 20-24, 2016 – Eggendorf, Austria
Automatica 2016 – June 21-25, 2016 – Munich, Germany
ISR 2016 – June 21-22, 2016 – Munich, Germany
ICROM 2016 – June 23-25, 2016 – Singapore
The Rise of Machine Learning – June 24, 2016 – San Francisco, Calif., USA
UK Robotics Week – June 25-1, 2016 – United Kingdom
Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics – June 25-28, 2016 – London, England
TAROS 2016 – June 28-30, 2016 – Sheffield, United Kingdom
RoboCup 2016 – June 30-4, 2016 – Leipzig, Germany


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


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Camera drone flying

FAA Announces Commercial Drone Rules

This week, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration announced new safety regulations for unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds (25 kilograms) that are conducting non-hobbyist operations. In other words, the pilots and drones shooting your wedding video, trailing a snowboarder to catch the best trick as seen from above, or taking aerial footage of the horse ranch for sale in the next county now have dictates to follow. 

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Jaco robot arm doing motion planning with custom FPGA processor

Custom Processor Speeds Up Robot Motion Planning by Factor of 1,000

If you’ve ever seen a live robot manipulation demo, you’ve almost certainly noticed that the robot probably spends a lot of time looking like it’s not doing anything. It’s tempting to say that the robot is “thinking” when this happens, and that might even be mostly correct: odds are that you’re watching some poor motion-planning algorithm try and figure out how to get the robot’s arm and gripper to do what it’s supposed to do without running into anything. This motion planning process is both one of the most important skills a robot can have (since it’s necessary for robots to “do stuff”), and also one of the most time and processor intensive. 

At the RSS 2016 conference this week, researchers from the Duke Robotics group at Duke University in Durham, N.C., are presenting a paper about “Robot Motion Planning on a Chip,” in which they describe how they can speed up motion planning by three orders of magnitude while using 20 times less power. How? Rather than using general purpose CPUs and GPUs, they instead developed a custom processor that can run collision checking across an entire 3D grid all at once.

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Marty the robot from Robotical

Video Friday: Marty the Robot, Dancing With Drones, and Deep Learning for Cars

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

RSS 2016 – June 18-22, 2016 – Ann Arbor, Mich., USA
European Land Robot Trial – June 20-24, 2016 – Eggendorf, Austria
Automatica 2016 – June 21-25, 2016 – Munich, Germany
ISR 2016 – June 21-22, 2016 – Munich, Germany
ICROM 2016 – June 23-25, 2016 – Singapore
The Rise of Machine Learning – June 24, 2016 – San Francisco, Calif., USA
UK Robotics Week – June 25-1, 2016 – United Kingdom
Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics – June 25-28, 2016 – London, England
TAROS 2016 – June 28-30, 2016 – Sheffield, United Kingdom
RoboCup 2016 – June 30-4, 2016 – Leipzig, Germany
Amazon Picking Challenge – June 30-4, 2016 – Leipzig, Germany
IEEE AIM 2016 – July 12-15, 2016 – Banff, Canada
DLMC 2016 – July 13-15, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
ROS Industrial Workshop – July 14-15, 2016 – Singapore
MARSS 2016 – July 18-22, 2016 – Paris, France
IEEE WCCI 2016 – July 25-29, 2016 – Vancouver, Canada


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


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Magazino Toru warehouse robot

German Warehouse Robots Tackle Picking Tasks

Companies like Clearpath, Fetch, and Locus Robotics are doing some amazing work in order fulfillment and other warehouse tasks by developing mobile platforms that can autonomously and intelligently ferry items between locations. We don’t want to minimize how much of a challenge this is, but at the same time, it’s only half of the order fulfillment problem (and not the most difficult half). The hard part is getting those robots to pick items from shelves, and apparently it’s really hard: Amazon (whose warehouse robots are capable of tranporting items but not picking them) is holding its second Picking Challenge at RoboCup this year, and even with teams of researchers all collaborating on picking tasks with very expensive robots, results have been good but not inspiring.

German startup Magazino is another company trying to solve both problems. It has begun deploying a mobile warehouse robot called Toru designed to not only transport items but also pick them (some of them, anyway) directly off of shelves. They haven’t completely solved the problem of humans, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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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

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