Video Friday: Robot Gets Coffee, Drone in a Box, and Self-Driving Chairs

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

Image: SuperDroid via YouTube

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

The Future of Rescue Simulation Workshop – February 29-4, 2016 – Leiden, Netherlands
ROS-Industrial Consortium Americas – March 3-4, 2016 – San Antonio, Texas
HRI 2016 – March 7-10, 2016 – Christchurch, New Zealand
RobArch 2016 – March 14-19, 2016 – Sydney, Australia
RoboCup European Open – March 30-4, 2016 – Eindhoven, Netherlands
WeRobot 2016 – April 1-2, 2016 – Miami, Fla., USA
National Robotics Week – April 2-10, 2016 – United States
AISB HRI Symposium – April 5-6, 2016 – Sheffield, United Kingdom
Robotics in Education 2016 – April 14-15, 2016 – Vienna, Austria
International Collaborative Robots Workshop – May 3-4, 2016 – Boston, Mass., USA
ICARSC 2016 – May 4-6, 2016 – Bragança, Portugal
Robotica 2016 – May 4-8, 2016 – Bragança, Portugal
ARMS 2016 – May 9-13, 2016 – Singapore
ICRA 2016 – May 16-21, 2016 – Stockholm, Sweden

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

A reminder: Next week is the premiere of NOVA’s “Rise of the Robots.” You don’t want to miss this show because it’s an awesome overview of the promises and challenges of robotics today, focusing, in particular, on the robots and humans of the DARPA Robotics Challenge. We’ve seen an early screener, and there’s some footage of an amazing never-seen humanoid that we’re not supposed to talk about (sorry) UPDATE 2/23: It’s a massively updated next-generation ATLAS robot from Boston Dynamics that you must see right now. So tune in on Wednesday, February 24 at 9 pm ET on PBS (check local listings), or stream the full episode on the next morning.

[ “Rise of the Robots” ]

How to make coffee when you don’t want to deal with your coworkers, and you’re worried that one of those K-Cups might actually be a bomb:

[ SuperDroid Robots ]

Seoul National University’s Exo-Glove Poly is a soft robotic glove designed to help people with disabilities grasp objects:

This is some really amazing stuff: even helping with simple things like opening doors can significantly improve independence, and a design that’s inexpensive (and can get wet) seems to have lots of potential for real world use.

[ SNU Biorobotics ]

Want a real autonomous car right now? Dataspeed will do all the hardware for you, turning a Lincoln MKZ into a robot. And since it runs ROS, you can basically just run TurtleBot software on it and get it to drive autonomously. Simple!

(Do not try this at home.)

[ Dataspeed ] via [ ]

An early ICRA paper showing a Baxter ironing clothes:

“Robotic manipulation of deformable objects remains a challenging task. One such task is to iron a piece of cloth autonomously. Given a roughly flattened cloth, the goal is to have an ironing plan that can iteratively apply a regular iron to remove all the major wrinkles by a robot. We present a novel solution to analyze the cloth surface by fusing two surface scan techniques: a curvature scan and a discontinuity scan. The curvature scan can estimate the height deviation of the cloth surface, while the discontinuity scan can effectively detect sharp surface features, such as wrinkles. We use this information to detect the regions that need to be pulled and extended before ironing, and the other regions where we want to detect wrinkles and apply ironing to remove the wrinkles. We demonstrate that our hybrid scan technique is able to capture and classify wrinkles over the surface robustly. Given detected wrinkles, we enable a robot to iron them using shape features. Experimental results show that using our wrinkle analysis algorithm, our robot is able to iron the cloth surface and effectively remove the wrinkles.”

Read the paper here.

[ Yinxiao Li ] via [ Motherboard ]

This is a cool idea: a completely self-contained docking station for a drone all wrapped up in a box, with power and control and protection and everything.

[ H3 Dynamics ] via [ DIY Drones ]

Ready for one of the fastest hobby-size bipeds you’ve ever seen? Four and a half meters in 3.79 seconds.

This was part of Robo-One in Japan, which also featured biped wrestling. Here’s the finals for that:

[ Biped Robot News ]

Aido is a “sophisticated yet affordable home robot” with a ballbot base that’s scheduled to be launched this fall:

As always, we remain highly suspicious of highly produced videos like these, and we’re looking forward to seeing just plain footage of Aido actually doing stuff.

[ Aido ]

Thanks Tandy!

Nissan: solving all kinds of problems that didn’t exist until they were very expensively and time consumingly solved.

Yeah, I want a flock of these anyway.

[ Nissan ]

I still think drone racing could be cool, and I’m still worried that a TV show that appears to be this reality show-y could utterly ruin it:

[ Drone Racing League ]

Xibot is a social robot (another one) that’s currently sitting at 270 percent funding on Indiegogo:

Remember that all of the things that you’re seeing it do in the video are very heavily edited, so we’d suggest holding out for real-world demos before pledging for one. An early bird version will run you $250 on Indiegogo.

[ Indiegogo ]

Thanks Owen!

TORY is a robot that wanders through stores, autonomously doing inventory using UHF RFID tags:

[ MetraLabs ]

If you need a good reason to watch a show that makes fun of Silicon Valley startups, here’s one: Boston Dynamics’ Spot has a cameo!

[ Silicon Valley ] via [ PopSci ]

The PETROBOT project aims to develop a series of robots which can be used by inspectors to conduct remote inspection of pressure vessels and storage tanks widely used in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry. Currently the inspection of these tanks and pressure vessels is being done by people working inside these spaces which means the assets have to be shut down to ensure the safety of inspectors. Furthermore, vessels have to be decoupled from live sections of the plant, extensively cleaned to remove all products that can emit flammable or toxic gases and rendered safe for entry. In larger vessels, scaffolding is erected so that all necessary areas can be accessed during the inspection.

The objectives of the PETROBOT project are to minimise the exposure of personnel to potentially hazardous conditions, to reduce downtime and to save resources by using robotic technology to end the above procedure, which is long and costly. PETROBOT mobilises the complete value chain, including robot and inspection technology providers, inspection service companies and end-users. The inspection robots will be tested in the installations of the end-user consortium members. Special project activities aim at preparing the future user community to maximise the uptake of the new technology.

[ Petrobot ]

Thanks Tim!

An interesting idea for a modular little robotic tank-thing that’s just two tracks connected by an empty platform, on which you can mount whatever you want:

How about a seat and a little steering wheel? Defeats the purpose, I know, but it would be so much fun!

[ Milrem ]

The most amazing thing about this video is that the reporter is named Evan, but she’s a she! Mind = blown. Also, some third graders who are way luckier than I was in third grade are programming NAO robots to tell stories.

[ RobotLAB ]

If you liked Marco Tempest’s drone magic video from last week, here’s some behind the scenes of how it was done:

[ Marco Tempest ]

FLASH is one of the most creatively designed robots we’ve seen, and now, you can actually buy one for yourself! These three videos provide a detailed overview of FLASH’s hardware, in case you’re tempted.

[ FLASH Robotics ]

Thanks Jan!

From The Guardian:

“While we can’t predict the future, we can imagine a world without work – one where those who own the tech get rich from it and everyone else ekes out a living, propped up by an increasingly fragile state. Meet Alice, holder of the last recognisable job on Earth, trying to make sense of her role in an automated world.”

[ The Guardian ]

When you hear the word “drone,” you probably think of something either very useful or very scary. But could they have aesthetic value? Autonomous systems expert Raffaello D’Andrea develops flying machines, and his latest projects are pushing the boundaries of autonomous flight — from a flying wing that can hover and recover from disturbance to an eight-propeller craft that’s ambivalent to orientation ... to a swarm of tiny coordinated micro-quadcopters. Prepare to be dazzled by a dreamy, swirling array of flying machines as they dance like fireflies above the TED stage.

[ TED ]

These four videos from the World Economic Forum are some bite-sized informed opinions on robots and emotions, social robotics, ethical machines, and machine intelligence.

[ World Economic Forum ]

Thanks Angelica!

From the CMU RI seminar series: Sabine Hauert, Lecturer in Robotics, University of Bristol:

Nanoparticles for cancer applications are increasingly able to move, sense, and interact the body in a controlled fashion. The challenge is to discover how trillions of nanoparticles can work together to improve the detection and treatment of tumors. Towards this end, the field of swarm robotics offers tools and techniques to control large numbers of agents with limited capabilities. Our swarm strategies are designed in realistic simulators using bio-inspiration, machine learning and crowdsourcing (NanoDoc: Strategies are then translated to 1000 coin-sized robots, or to experiments under the microscope in tissue-on-a-chip devices. Lessons learned could also enable large-scale swarm deployments in outdoor applications.

[ CMU RI Seminar ]

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