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Drone with safety rotor system

Quadrotor Safety System Stops Propellers Before You Lose a Finger

Quadrotors have a reputation for being both fun and expensive, but it’s not usually obvious how dangerous they can be. While it’s pretty clear from the get-go that it’s in everyone’s best interest to avoid the spinny bits whenever possible, quadrotor safety primarily involves doing little more than trying your level best not to run into people. Not running into people with your drone is generally good advice, but the problems tend to happen when for whatever reason the drone escapes from your control. Maybe it’s your fault, maybe it’s the drone’s fault, but either way, those spinny bits can cause serious damage.

Safety-conscious quadrotor pilots have few options for making their drones safer, and none of them are all that great, due either to mediocre effectiveness or significant cost and performance tradeoffs. Now researchers at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, have come up with a clever idea for a quadrotor-safety system that manages to be highly effective, reliable, lightweight, and cheap all at the same time. If that sounds too good to be true, we have video of some hot dogs not getting chopped into bits that might convince you otherwise.

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Disney Research's Stickman robot

Stickman Explores the Physics of Flying Through the Air

This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE.

Olympic gymnast Simone Biles has a signature move that is named after her because she is the only woman on earth capable of performing it. The move starts as a layout double flip, but more than halfway through suddenly develops a twist that rotates her body through an extra 180 degrees to land face first. The only visible source of this sudden change in rotation is a small motion of one hand as her arm goes from straight to bent. It’s a beautiful example of how the seemingly simple physics of ballistic motion, completely governed by a relatively simple conservation of angular momentum, can produce amazing and unexpected results.

Disney Research has a rich history of pushing the boundaries of innovation at The Walt Disney Company. That said, we found that combination of simple physics and surprising results compelling—perhaps it would be possible to build a relatively simple robot that could accomplish remarkable things.

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Flash Robotics EMYS heads

Video Friday: Andy Rubin on Robotics, Dynamic Exoskeleton, and Two Robot Heads

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!):

ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia
Dynamic Walking Conference – May 21-24, 2018 – Pensacola, Fla., USA
RoboCup 2018 – June 18-22, 2018 – Montreal, Canada
RSS 2018 – June 26-30, 2018 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA
Ubiquitous Robots 2018 – June 27-30, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii
MARSS 2018 – July 4-8, 2018 – Nagoya, Japan
AIM 2018 – July 9-12, 2018 – Auckland, New Zealand
ICARM 2018 – July 18-20, 2018 – Singapore
ICMA 2018 – August 5-8, 2018 – Changchun, China
SSRR 2018 – August 6-8, 2018 – Philadelphia, Pa., USA

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


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Cornell's Goosebumps robot

Feel What This Robot Feels Through Tactile Expressions

We humans think we’re pretty clever with all of the different ways that we have of communicating with each other. We vocalize, we have expressive faces, we gesture. It seems like plenty of modes of communication, but we’re missing out on a few that are routine for animals, including texture: Animals can express emotional states through skin changes, like when cats cause their hair to stand up, or when a blowfish inflates itself and gets all pokey. We can’t make textural expressions like these (although it does sometimes happen to us involuntarily), but we can often do a reasonable job of interpreting them when we see them: Anything that grows spikes, for example, probably prefers not to be touched.

Guy Hoffman’s Human-Robot Collaboration & Companionship (HRC2) Lab at Cornell University is working on a new robot that’s designed to investigate this concept of textural communication, which really hasn’t been explored in robotics all that much. The robot uses a pneumatically powered elastomer skin that can be dynamically textured with either goosebumps or spikes, which should help it communicate more effectively, especially if what it’s trying to communicate is, “Don’t touch me!”

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University of Washington's RoboFly

Laser-Powered Robot Insect Achieves Lift Off

For robots of all sizes, power is a fundamental problem. Any robot that moves is constrained in one way or another by power supply, whether it’s relying on carrying around heavy batteries, combustion engines, fuel cells, or anything else. It’s particularly tricky to manage power as your robot gets smaller, since it’s much more straightforward to scale these things up rather than down—and for really tiny robots (with masses in the hundreds of milligrams range), especially those that demand a lot of power, there really isn’t a good solution. In practice, this means that on the scale of small insects robots often depend on tethers for power, which isn’t ideal for making them practical in the long term.

At the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Brisbane, Australia, next week, roboticists from the University of Washington, in Seattle, will present RoboFly, a laser-powered insect-sized flapping wing robot that performs the first (very brief) untethered flight of a robot at such a small scale.

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Boston Dynamics' Atlas humanoid robot jogging

Video Friday: Atlas Jogging, Drive.ai Launch, and Robotic Warehouse

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!):

NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 14-18, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA
ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia
Dynamic Walking Conference – May 21-24, 2018 – Pensacola, Fla., USA
RoboCup 2018 – June 18-22, 2018 – Montreal, Canada
RSS 2018 – June 26-30, 2018 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA
Ubiquitous Robots 2018 – June 27-30, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii
MARSS 2018 – July 4-8, 2018 – Nagoya, Japan
AIM 2018 – July 9-12, 2018 – Auckland, New Zealand
ICARM 2018 – July 18-20, 2018 – Singapore
ICMA 2018 – August 5-8, 2018 – Changchun, China
SSRR 2018 – August 6-8, 2018 – Philadelphia, Pa., USA

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


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Robot fixing a sink

Intel Starts R&D Effort in Probabilistic Computing for AI

Intel announced today that it is forming a strategic research alliance to take artificial intelligence to the next level. Autonomous systems don’t have good enough ways to respond to the uncertainties of the real world, and they don’t have a good enough way to understand how the uncertainties of their sensors should factor into the decisions they need to make. According to Intel CTO Mike Mayberry the answer is “probabilistic computing”, which he says could be AI’s next wave.

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This artist's rendering shows how Dynetics plans to release and catch a swarm of Gremlin drones.

DARPA's Semi-Disposable Gremlin Drones Will Fly by 2019

We first reported on Gremlins back in 2015, as one of those “DARPA wants” projects that seems like it might be a bit far-fetched—in this case, DARPA wanted swarms of nearly disposable UAVs that could launch and be retrieved from flying aircraft carrier motherships in mid-air. Over the last few years, we’ve seen some progress towards disposable drones, but the tricky part was always going to be the mid-air retrieval. We speculated a bit in our original post about how it might be done, but we didn’t get it quite right, which we know because DARPA has given a company called Dynetics a US $38.6 million contract to make Gremlins real.

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Cobalt security robot

Video Friday: Security Robot as a Service, Robotic Mining, and Saved by a Drone

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!):

Applied Collegiate Exoskeleton Competition – May 05, 2018 – University of Michigan, USA
NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 14-18, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA
ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia
Dynamic Walking Conference – May 21-24, 2018 – Pensacola, Fl., USA
RoboCup 2018 – June 18-22, 2018 – Montreal, Canada
RSS 2018 – June 26-30, 2018 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA
Ubiquitous Robots 2018 – June 27-30, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii
MARSS 2018 – July 4-8, 2018 – Nagoya, Japan
AIM 2018 – July 9-12, 2018 – Auckland, New Zealand
ICARM 2018 – July 18-20, 2018 – Singapore

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


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The Misty II personal robot is designed to do whatever you can program it to do, and more

Misty Robotics Builds on Developer Platform With New Personal Robot

Misty Robotics announced their developer platform, Misty I, just a few months ago. Misty I was a hand-built prototype, with similar essential functionality in hardware and software to a more refined production robot that the company planned to release later in the year. Later in the year has now arrived, and today Misty Robotics is launching a crowdfunding campaign for a much more polished personal robot, Misty II, which can be yours to program starting at $1,500.

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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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Erico Guizzo
New York City
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Evan Ackerman
Washington, D.C.
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Fan Shi
Tokyo
 

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