Video Friday: Rocket RoboBee, Willow Garage, and Caltech's Cassie

Catech's Cassie bipedal robot
Image: Caltech via YouTube

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!):

Robótica 2017 – November 7-11, 2017 – Curitiba, Brazil
Humanoids 2017 – November 15-17, 2017 – Birmingham, U.K.
iREX 2017 – November 29-2, 2017 – Tokyo, Japan

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


A new RoboBee from Harvard can swim underwater, and then launch itself into the air with a microrocket and fly away. Suck it, real bees!

At the millimeter scale, the water’s surface might as well be a brick wall. Surface tension is more than 10 times the weight of the RoboBee and three times its maximum lift. Previous research demonstrated how impact and sharp edges can break the surface tension of water to facilitate the RoboBee’s entry, but the question remained: How does it get back out again?

To solve that problem, the researchers retrofitted the RoboBee with four buoyant outriggers — essentially robotic floaties — and a central gas collection chamber. Once the RoboBee swims to the surface, an electrolytic plate in the chamber converts water into oxyhydrogen, a combustible gas fuel.

The gas increases the robot’s buoyancy, pushing the wings out of the water, and the floaties stabilize the RoboBee on the water’s surface. From there, a tiny, novel sparker inside the chamber ignites the gas, propelling the RoboBee out of the water. The robot is designed to passively stabilize in air, so that it always lands on its feet.

[ Harvard ] via [ Science Robotics ]


Ten years ago this week, Willow Garage had a little booth at what I think was the very first RoboDevelopment conference in Santa Clara, Calif. In this video from the event, Keenan Wyrobeck explains what PR1 is all about, and how they’re juuust starting to work on the PR2:

And here’s a video I took at the same event, showing either a handshake or a fistfight between PR1 and Anybots’ Monty. Watch until the end to see what made Monty AMAZING:

[ Willow Garage ]


Simone Giertz made a robot that serves soup. Whatever you’re imagining, it’s almost certainly messier.

[ Simone Giertz ]


Caltech has a fancy new Space Robotics Lab, which has, among many other things, a frictionless floor system that you can use to dramatically test space robots in 2D:

The facility will include an assembly room with an 85-foot-long oval track for walking robots and an aerospace robotics control lab with high-precision flat floor that allows researchers to fly "spacecraft" that have been engineered to hover through high-pressure jets (like a reverse air hockey table) and simulate the frictionless motion of space flight.

CAST’s centerpiece is a three-story-tall, wholly enclosed aerodrome—the tallest of its kind—in which to test flying drones. To simulate the ever-shifting environmental conditions that drones face in the real world, the aerodrome includes a 10-foot-by-10-foot wall of 1,296 fans capable of generating wind speeds of up to 44 mph, with a side wall of 324 fans to create a crosswind. The wall is capable of creating a nearly infinite variety of wind conditions for drones to learn to react to—everything from a light gust to a stormy vortex. It can also be tilted 90 degrees to simulate vertical take offs and landings.

[ CAST ]


This is a concept from Honda called Ai-Miimo, a version of their robotic lawn mower with a neck and a head and a face because...why not?

Honda Ai-Miimo Concept was developed based on the Honda Miimo, an electric self-propelled robotic lawn mower. By installing AI, it was turned into a model which communicates with its user and supports the user in his/her everyday life. Honda developed this model with the hope to create an existence which goes beyond the framework of a “product” but brings smiles and pleasant moments in people’s lives just like a pet or family member.

[ Honda ]


ShyBot is a robot with an accidental behavior created by a face tracking glitch AND I LOVE IT!

And there’s code on Github to make your own!

[ Github ] via [ YouTube ]


Caltech’s Cassie takes a walk around campus:

Meanwhile, Michigan is already being a little more... aggressive... With Cassie Blue:

[ Agility Robotics ]


Songhwai Oh from Seoul National University writes:

I’d like to introduce an interesting work from our lab. It’s called Text2Action. If you give it a sentence, it synthesizes a 3D action sequence matching the particular sentence. It is based on deep learning (GAN and RNN) and trained from YouTube videos. With this work, you can make a robot act like a human with only words.

[ arXiv ]

Thanks Songhwai!


Amir Shapiro at Ben-Gurion University and RoboTiCan are competing in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s robotics challenge in Australia with their robot, Komodo:

Mapping of task area is performed by the Komodo, during a preliminary guided exploration SLAM task in which the robot maps the storage area while navigating to operator-set goals and avoiding obstacles.

[ BGU Robotics ] via [ IAEA ]


Konstantin Lassnig from Arti-Robots and his team converted a little electric vehicle into an autonomous delivery robot:

The vehicle is based on the commercial electric vehicle [Jetflyer] of the Styrian vehicle manufacturer i-Tec Styria . In the course of the project the vehicle was equipped with electrically controlled steering, brake and gas. This enables drive-by-wire on the vehicle, which is a prerequisite for autonomous driving. In addition, electronically lockable packet reception boxes have been integrated. To enable autonomous driving, the vehicle was equipped with laser sensors and a control computer. On the computer runs a specially developed software, which processes the sensor data and allows a secure autonomous navigation in urban terrain.

The robot system was tested in extensive virtual simulations and real tests at Campus Inffeldgasse and in Grazer Innenstadt under real conditions (eg traffic with delivery vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians). The navigation software is largely based on the results of a diploma thesis and the experience gained from the RoboCup Team TEDUSAR at the Graz University of Technology. Furthermore, methods from further research projects were integrated into the developed software in order to achieve an intelligent and robust behavior of the robot.

[ IST ] via [ Arti-Robots ]

Thanks Konstantin!


If you like ROS and autonomous cars but have no money to spend, you’ll appreciate this update to Gazebo:

[ Gazebo ]


Some research featuring Minitaur, which will be presented at the 2017 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics:

This paper demonstrates a fully sensor-based reactive homing behavior on a physical quadrupedal robot, using onboard sensors, in simple (convex obstacle-cluttered) unknown, GPS-denied environments. Its implementation is enabled by our empirical success in controlling the legged machine to approximate the (abstract) unicycle mechanics assumed by the navigation algorithm, and our proposed method of range-only target localization using particle filters.

[ UPenn ]


Happy Halloween from Cozmo!

The only good pumpkin is an exploded pumpkin, I always say.

[ Cozmo ]


DroneCatcher is a multicopter, that is armed with a netgun. It can safely remove illicit drones from the air. After detection by for example a radar, vision or an acoustic system, DroneCatcher is able to quickly approach hovering or moving threats. With the use of multiple onboard sensors, the netgun can be locked on the target. Thanks to DroneCatcher’s track & trace capabilities, the drone will be caught by shooting a net. After the catch, DroneCatcher can bring the captured drone attached with a cable, to a harmless place. When the caught drone is too heavy to tow, the target can be dropped with a parachute to ensure low impact on the ground.

Now can it try and catch that white van instead?

[ Delft Dynamics ]


Introducing WiBotic PowerPad, a completely integrated wireless charging pad for drones. Designed for the many drone operators who don’t want to develop their own wireless charging pad, WiBotic PowerPad contains the WiBotic transmitter circuit, transmitter antenna and power supply in one ready-to-go unit.

[ WiBotic ]


Whether it’s at work or at home, things like a smartphone or a car’s voice-activation software free up valuable minutes of your day. That’s exactly the idea behind something new we’re testing in a small number of our stores: using automation to handle tasks that are repeatable, predictable and manual, like scanning shelves for out-of-stock items, incorrect prices and wrong or missing labels. This new shelf-scanning technology frees up time for our associates to focus on what they tell us are the most important and exciting parts of working at Walmart – serving customers and selling merchandise.

[ Walmart ]


From the Canadian Space Agency (which does more than just make arms!):

Get a 360° view of a simulated rover mission on the Moon. Field exercises are essential to test the technology, develop the science, and acquire the know-how in preparation for future lunar exploration.

[ CSA ]


Aaron Parness talks about using microspine grippers for space applications:

[ JPL ] via [ Innovation Nation ]


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