Video Friday: TORO Humanoid Robot Learning to Balance, and More

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

DLR Toro robot
Photo: DLR
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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!):

ELROB 2018 – September 24-28, 2018 – Mons, Belgium
ARSO 2018 – September 27-29, 2018 – Genoa, Italy
ROSCon 2018 – September 29-30, 2018 – Madrid, Spain
IROS 2018 – October 1-5, 2018 – Madrid, Spain
ICSR 2018 – November 28-30, 2018 – Qingdao, China

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


Humanoid robots spend a lot of time failing at not falling over. Humans are slightly better, because we cheat, by bracing ourselves against things when our balance starts to go wonky. TORO, a humanoid robot created by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), can do the same:

Introducing humanoid robots in areas where space is limited, for example in search-and-rescue scenarios or industrial manufacturing, represents a huge challenge, especially when the environment is cluttered and unknown. The robot should be capable of utilizing multiple contact points distributed across the entire body and not just its feet and hands. Extra contacts on the whole body, for instance including the knees and elbows, enable the robot to increase its agility and robustness by enhancing the support polygon. This paper applies our passivity-based approach for hierarchical whole-body control including balancing to scenarios involving contacts distributed all over the body of the robot as required in confined spaces. The approach is experimentally validated on the torque-controlled humanoid robot TORO to demonstrate the general applicability of the presented framework.

[ Paper ] via [ DLR ]

Thanks, Maximo!


Spry is a drone on Kickstarter that’s rugged and waterproof and has the ability to briefly submerge.

It looks interesting, but it’s a novel enough design that my advice would be to wait for actual reviews to come out before buying one. It’s a pledge of about US $800 right now.

[ Kickstarter ]


How to do teleop of an expensive robot by spending almost no money on your teleop system.

In this paper, we present an implementation of a bi-manual teleoperation system, controlled by a human through three-dimensional (3D) skeleton extraction. The input data is given from a cheap RGB-D range sensor, such as the ASUS Xtion PRO. To achieve this, we have implemented a 3D version of the impressive OpenPose package, which was recently developed. The first stage of our method contains the execution of the OpenPose Convolutional Neural Network (CNN), using a sequence of RGB images as input. The extracted human skeleton pose localization in two-dimensions (2D) is followed by the mapping of the extracted joint location estimations into their 3D pose in the camera frame. The output of this process is then used as input to drive the end-pose of the robotic hands relative to the human hand movements, through a whole-body inverse kinematics process in the Cartesian space. Finally, we implement the method as a ROS wrapper package and we test it on the centaur-like CENTAURO robot. Our demonstrated task is of a box and lever manipulation in real-time, as a result of a human task demonstration.

[ Dimitrios Kanoulas ]


You don’t have to be scara of these robot arms, but if you get your fingers in there, they could scara you for life.

[ Denso ]


Oh snap, robots can open ROUND DOORKNOBS NOW

[ UT Austin ] via [ Clearpath Robotics ]


Winner of this week’s “most awkward acronym” award is NASLab’s “Glider for Underwater Problem-solving and Promotion of Interest in Engineering,” or GUPPIE.

[ NASLab ]


NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission launched in 2016 and now (August, 2018) is entering its approach phase. OSIRIS-REx will arrive at asteroid Bennu in December, 2018. OSIRIS-REx will help unveil the mysteries of our solar system’s formation.

[ NASA ]


Robots and lasers and molten metal!!!

[ Kuka ]


RE2’s HDMS features dual robotic manipulator arms and a movable humanoid torso that can be easily mounted onto a variety of third-party robotic platforms. The system’s ability to mimic human interaction provides numerous benefits for military, civilian and industrial users. HDMS is extremely flexible and configurable, allowing for both the dexterous manipulation and precision placement of objects, essentially serving as an extension of the human who is controlling it.

[ RE2 ]


From Space Age rockets to 21st-century robot explorers on Mars, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has blazed the trail through our Solar System and beyond for over 80 years. Today NASA/JPL continues its world-leading innovation with programs in planetary exploration, Earth science, space-based astronomy and technology development, while applying its capabilities to technical and scientific problems of national significance. We dare mighty things.

For the record, I also dare mighty things.

[ JPL ]


RoboThespian, on his movable base, runs a test sequence before being delivered to a customer. The track and base means RoboThespian can move from point to point, as well as rotate his body.

[ RoboThespian ]


Two minutes and 20 seconds of a dancy Snoopy robot is probably two minutes more than you really need.

[ AIT Robot Museum ]


Here’s an interesting build video for a biocopter—it’s like half a quadcopter (the good half). Boeing, I’m told, copied this design for their V-22 Osprey.

The full kit will run you about $250, without controller or battery.

[ RCExplorer ] via [ DIY Drones ]


CMU’s Aaron Johnson took the students in his Robot Design and Experimentation class to the zoo and let them pester the animals for some bio-inspiration:

Here are videos on all four of the projects, some of which look like they’re not quite finished yet, so we hope we’ll end up seeing more.

[ CMU ]


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