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Robots Continue Attempting to Master Ikea Furniture Assembly

Robots Continue Attempting to Master Ikea Furniture Assembly

Apparently, one of the standards by which we should be measuring the progress of useful robotic manipulation is through the assembly of Ikea furniture. With its minimalistic and affordable Baltoscandian design coupled with questionably creditable promises of effortless assembly, Ikea has managed to convince generations of inexperienced and desperate young adults (myself included) that we can pretend to be grownups by buying and putting together our own furniture. It’s never as easy as that infuritatingly calm little Ikea manual dude makes it look, though, and in terms of things we wish robots would solve, Ikea furniture assembly has ended up way higher on the priority list than maybe it should be. 

We’ve seen a variety of robotic systems tackle Ikea in the past, but today in Science Robotics is (perhaps for the first time) a mostly off-the-shelf system of a few arms and basic sensors that can put together the frame of a Stefan chair kit autonomously(ish) and from scratch.

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EPFL's FlyJacket exosuit allows you to embody a drone, making it feel like you're flying

FlyJacket Lets You Control a Drone With Your Body

It takes a lot of practice to fly a drone with confidence. Whether it’s a multirotor or a fixed-wing drone, there are a lot of complicated things going on all at once, and most of the control systems are not even a little bit intuitive. The first-person viewpoint afforded by drone-mounted cameras and VR headsets helps, but you’re still stuck with trying to use a couple of movable sticks to manage a flying robot, which takes both experience and concentration.

EPFL has developed a much better system for drone control, taking away the sticks and replacing them with intuitive and comfortable movements of your entire body. It’s an upper-body soft exoskeleton called FlyJacket, and with it on, you can pilot a fixed-wing drone by embodying the drone—put your arms out like wings, and pitching or rolling your body will cause the drone to pitch or roll, all while you experience it directly in immersive virtual reality.

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Robot with scissors

Video Friday: Robot With Scissors, Cassie on a Segway, and Atlas Kicking

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 Swarmathon – April 17-19, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA
RoboSoft 2018 – April 24-28, 2018 – Livorno, Italy
ICARSC 2018 – April 25-27, 2018 – Torres Vedras, Portugal
NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 14-18, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA
ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia
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

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


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A drone combined with a Hololens can simulate x-ray vision while offering easy and intuitive control

See Straight Through Walls by Augmenting Your Eyeballs With Drones

Robots make fantastic remote-sensing systems, ideal for sending in to disaster areas or for search-and-rescue. Drones in particular can move rapidly over large areas or through structures, identifying damage or looking for survivors by sending a video feed from their on-board cameras to a remote operator. While the data that drones provide can be invaluable, managing them can be quite difficult, especially once they get beyond line-of-sight.

Researchers from Graz University of Technology, in Styria, Austria, led by Okan Erat, want to change the way we interface with drones, using augmented reality to turn them from complicated flying robots into remote cameras that an untrained user can easily control. Through a HoloLens—Microsoft’s mixed reality head-mounted display—a drone can enable a sort of X-ray vision, allowing you to see straight through walls and making controlling the drone as easy as grabbing a virtual drone and putting it exactly where you want it to be.

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Robot trading cards

Don't Forget, It's National Robotics Week!

In 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed resolution H.Res. 1055 to make the second week of April officially National Robotics Week. Now celebrating its eighth year, National Robotics Week is more national and more robotics-y than ever, with hundreds of events taking place all over the country.

We know that most of you live robotics every single day anyway (as you should), and so National Robotics Week might not seem like it’s worth celebrating, but what about your friends and family who have no idea how cool robots are, and who maybe have no idea what it is that you actually, you know, do? Fundamentally, NRW is all about celebrating how cool robotics is, and getting as many people involved as possible—think about finding an event near you that looks like fun, and then dragging someone along who doesn’t (yet) understand why robotics is the best thing ever. They’ll either thank you for it, or think you’re crazy, but it’s a win either way, right?

You can find out what’s going on at the National Robotics Week website, here. If you can’t find something near you, that just means that you need to start planning to host your own NRW event next year. And don’t forget, we’ve partnered with NRW to make a brand-new set of robot trading cards, which you can get here.

[ National Robotics Week

Aibo and his best friend

Video Friday: Robot Barber, Untethered iCub, and Aibo's Best Friend

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!):

U.S. National Robotics Week – April 7-17, 2018 – United States
Xconomy Robo Madness – April 12, 2018 – Bedford, Mass., USA
NASA Swarmathon – April 17-19, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA
RoboSoft 2018 – April 24-28, 2018 – Livorno, Italy
ICARSC 2018 – April 25-27, 2018 – Torres Vedras, Portugal
NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 14-18, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA
ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia
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

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


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Fribo, a social networking robot

Fribo: A Robot for People Who Live Alone

In the United States, there are over 5 million young adults between the ages of 18-35 living alone, and that number is growing. While many of them may be living alone by choice, it can also be socially isolating, if you’re into that whole being social thing. The situation is similar in many other countries, especially in Asia. There are plenty of robots under development (and even available) for elderly people with social isolation issues, but younger people are expected to, uh, just go outside or something. 

At the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human Robot Interaction last month, roboticists from Korea introduced a robot called Fribo, which is designed to provide a way for young adults who live alone to maintain daily connections with one another. It does this by listening for what goes on in your life and the life of your friends, in as non-creepy a way as possible.

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What People See in 157 Robot Faces

What People See in 157 Robot Faces

In recent years, an increasing number of robots have relied on screens rather than physical mechanisms to generate expressive faces. Screens are cheap, they’re easy to work with, and they allow for nearly unlimited creativity. Consequently, there’s an enormous variety of robot faces, with a spectrum of similarities and differences both obvious and subtle. However, there hasn’t been a comprehensive study of the entire design space, possibly because of how large it is, and this is bad, because there’s a lot to learn.

At the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human Robot Interaction (HRI) last month, roboticists from the University of Washington in Seattle presented a paper entitled “Characterizing the Design Space of Rendered Robot Faces.” When they say “characterizing” and “design space,” they aren’t kidding: They looked at 157 different robot faces across 76 dimensions, did a pile of statistical analyses on them, and then conducted a set of surveys to figure out how people experience robot faces differently.

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How Not to Order Water from a Robot Waiter

How Not to Order Water from a Robot Waiter

AI systems have gotten pretty good, by this point, at understanding us when we talk to it. That is, they’ve gotten pretty good at understanding what the words that we say mean. Unfortunately for AI, it’s often the case in conversations between humans that we say things that we don’t expect the other person to take literally, instead relying on them to infer our intentions, which may be significantly different than what the exact words that we use would suggest.

For example, take the question, “Do you know what time it is?” Most of us would respond to that by communicating what time it is, but that’s not what the question is asking. If you do in fact know the time, strictly speaking a simple “Yes, I do” would be the correct answer. You might think that “Can you tell me what time it is?” is a similar question, but taken literally, it’s asking whether you have the capacity to relate the time through speech, so a correct answer would be “Yes, I can” whether you know what time it is or not.

This may seem pedantic, but understanding what information we expect to receive when we ask certain questions is not at all obvious to AI systems or robots. These indirect speech acts, or ISAs, are the subject of a paper presented last month at the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human Robot Interaction, and it includes one of the most entertaining conversations between a human and a robot that I’ve ever seen.

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Soft Robotics combines robotic soft grippers with AI

Video Friday: Science Lab Robot, Will Smith's Android Date, and Soft Robotic Gripper

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!):

US National Robotics Week – April 7-17, 2018 – United States
Xconomy Robo Madness – April 12, 2018 – Bedford, Mass., USA
NASA Swarmathon – April 17-19, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA
RoboSoft 2018 – April 24-28, 2018 – Livorno, Italy
ICARSC 2018 – April 25-27, 2018 – Torres Vedras, Portugal
NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 14-18, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA
ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia
RSS 2018 – June 26-30, 2018 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA
Ubiquitous Robots 2018 – June 27-30, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii

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


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Automaton

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

Editor
Erico Guizzo
New York City
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Washington, D.C.
Contributor
Fan Shi
Tokyo
 

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