Video Friday: MIT's Origami Magic-Ball Gripper

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

MIT origami gripper
Image: MIT
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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 few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

HRI 2019 – March 11-14, 2019 – Daegu, Korea
ISMR 2019 – April 1-5, 2019 – Atlanta, GA, USA
We Robot 2019 – April 11-13, 2019 – Miami, Florida, USA
RoboSoft 2019 – April 14-18, 2019 – Seoul, Korea
NIST ARIAC Challenge – April 15-19, 2019 – Online
Nîmes Robotics Festival – May 17-19, 2019 – Nîmes, France

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


This soft gripper from MIT is based on an origami “magic-ball.” It’s a “magic-ball gripper,” and that hyphen placement is absolutely critical to it functioning appropriately.

Videos like these always make me wonder whether robotics labs have some sort of box full of random objects that make for good gripper testing.

[ Paper ] via [ MIT ]


About 1 million adults in the United States need someone to help them eat, according to census data from 2010. It’s a time-consuming and often awkward task, one largely done out of necessity rather than choice. Researchers at the University of Washington are working on a robotic system that can help make it easier. After identifying different foods on a plate, the robot can strategize how to use a fork to pick up and deliver the desired bite to a person’s mouth.

To design a skewering and feeding strategy that changes based on the food item, the researchers combined two different algorithms. First they used an object-detection algorithm called RetinaNet, which scans the plate, identifies the types of food on it and places a frame around each item.

Then they developed SPNet, an algorithm that examines the type of food in a specific frame and tells the robot the best way to pick up the food. For example, SPNet tells the robot to skewer a strawberry or a slice of banana in the middle, and spear carrots at one of the two ends.

The team had the robot pick up pieces of food and feed them to volunteers using SPNet or a more uniform strategy: an approach that skewered the center of each food item regardless of what it was. SPNet’s varying strategies outperformed or performed the same as the uniform approach for all the food.

[ UW ]


I wonder how the dog feels about this:

RVR is not meant as a replacement for a qualified dog walker.

[ RVR ]


The Ghost Robotics Vision 60 is looking very, very impressive.

Vision 60 locomotion over unstructured terrain in blind mode w/out vision or toe/leg sensors... Feeling the environment and forces directly through the actuators for robust operability before moving to vision guided locomotion and autonomy, as well as faster speeds of 2+ m/s on rough terrain.

[ Ghost Robotics ]


The Air Force gets all the cool new toys.

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. The Air Force Research Laboratory partnered with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems to develop the XQ-58A.

[ AFRL ]


How roboticists commute during the winter in Canada:

[ Clearpath Robotics ]


Rogue drones can be disruptive or even dangerous. But how do you take down a drone from the sky? First up: net guns and balls. Frankly, it’s a bit hit and miss. Then, a lightbulb moment: How about a Tesla Coil? Will the drones fly? Or fry?

DroneClash is a sort of aerial Robot Wars with the serious aim of stimulating counter-drone technology. Recent events like the Gatwick “drone incident” have reminded us that flying drones in the wrong places could be recipe for disaster. On 16/03/2019 nine teams from from five countries will battle it out with drones for a prize pot of €50,000.

[ DroneClash ]


The Interactive Robotics Group at Koreatech have been slowly adding bits to their LIMS2-AMBIDEX robot, and the latest is a gravity-compensating torso and waist that can also hold heavy things if you remove the arms and head.

[ IRIM Lab YouTube ]


Picoh is a little robotic head that you can pledge for on Kickstarter for about $120. Most Kickstarter robotics projects seem to gloss over the idea of human-robot interaction (which is a shame, because it’s an important enough thing that there’s a big conference going on about it in Korea right now), but Picoh offers a cheap, easy, and friendly platform for robotic interactivity.

Doesn’t get much easier than that, does it?

[ Kickstarter ]

Thanks George!


Will Burrard-Lucas throws his camera robot into the path of elephants, which manage not to step on it.

By leaving the BeetleCam motionless next to waterholes and paths, the elephants quickly came to ignore it. At times it was a bit nerve-racking to have my camera just inches from such colossal animals, but they rarely touched it. The greatest threat to BeetleCam came when fighting erupted between bad-tempered elephants jostling for position at the waterhole; in this manner, BeetleCam was inadvertently kicked a few times, but fortunately always emerged unscathed.

[ Will Burrard-Lucas ]


For the first time in the world, Stanley Robotics’ outdoor automated robotic valet system, developed in partnership with Aéroports de Lyon, was presented in operation on Thursday, March 14.

I like how the robots totally ignore the lines.

[ Stanley Robotics ] via [ TechCrunch ]


VEO is teaching industrial robots to not kill you quite as much.

[ VEO Robotics ]


Misty: robust against both pi and pie. Mostly.

[ Misty Robotics ]


That high jump bar just keeps getting higher and higher.

Also I want a flag that says "UNKNOWN WORLD" on it. That’s deep, man.

[ Hinamitetu ]


CarriRo is, I would say, the absolute cutest sidewalk delivery robot.

I like the idea of a delivery robot that screams at people in a friendly way as it goes about its business.

[ ZMP ]


In Morocco, near the city of Erfoud close to the Algerian border, the landscape bears a striking resemblance to some of the regions of Mars, with rocky plains free of vegetation, small hills and steep cliffs. Moreover, the dry climate and good infrastructure enable field tests all year round. Between mid November and mid December 2018, a team of up to 40 scientists from more than European universities, research organizations and private companies spent almost one month in the desert of Morocco.

The scientists used SherpaTT, an exploration rover developed by DFKI’s Robotics Innovation Center in Germany, as well as Manna and Minni, two smaller rovers provided by CNRS-LAAS in France to collect field data and to test their software. After four weeks of intensive tests and experiments, the field trials were successfully completed and SherpaTT managed to autonomously traverse more than 1,4 km of unstructured terrain.

[ DFKI ]


Biomechanist Christine thought exoskeleton technology was so cool, she created her own position on the ONYX exoskeleton team. In this episode of Talk Techy to Me, Christine answers your questions about the exoskeleton and breaks down how human and machine can become one.

[ Lockheed Martin ]


Thank Asimov that there are clever people out there thinking about robotics and the law, because most of us are just going to ignore potential problems until it’s far, far too late.

[ We Robot ]


Verity’s founder and CEO, Raffaello D’Andrea gave a TED-style keynote on creativity and drone technology (‘What are next frontiers for creative entertainment?’) at the Sony WOW Studio as part of SXSW 2019.

[ Verity ]


Leslie Kaelbling is a roboticist and professor at MIT. She is recognized for her work in reinforcement learning, planning, robot navigation, and several other topics in AI. She won the IJCAI Computers and Thought Award and was the editor-in-chief of the prestigious Journal of Machine Learning Research.

[ MIT AI ]


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