Video Friday: Mini Pupper

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

4 min read
yellow robot puppy

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. 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!):

IROS 2021 – September 27-1, 2021 – [Online Event]
Robo Boston – October 1-2, 2021 – Boston, MA, USA
WearRAcon Europe 2021 – October 5-7, 2021 – [Online Event]
ROSCon 2021 – October 20-21, 2021 – [Online Event]

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

Mini Pupper is now on Kickstarter!

The basic kit is $250, which includes just the custom parts, so you'll need to add your own 3D printed parts, some of the electronics, and the battery. A complete Mini Pupper kit is $500, or get it fully assembled for an extra $60.

Everything should (with all the usual Kickstarter caveats in mind) ship in November, which is plenty of time to get it to me for the holidays (for any of my family reading this).

[ Mini Pupper ]

An Inflatable robotic hand design gives amputees real-time tactile control and enables a wide range of daily activities, such as zipping a suitcase, shaking hands, and petting a cat. The smart hand is soft and elastic, weighs about half a pound, and costs a fraction of comparable prosthetics.

[ MIT ]

Among the first electronic mobile robots were the experimental machines of neuroscientist W. Grey Walter. Walter studied the brain's electrical activity at the Burden Neurological Institute (BNI) near Bristol, England. His battery-powered robots were models to test his theory that a minimum number of brain cells can control complex behavior and choice.

[ NMAH ]

Autonomous Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs) have the potential to be employed for surveillance and monitoring tasks. By perching and staring on one or multiple locations aerial robots can save energy while concurrently increasing their overall mission time without actively flying. In this paper, we address the estimation, planning, and control problems for autonomous perching on inclined surfaces with small quadrotors using visual and inertial sensing.


Human environments are filled with large open spaces that are separated by structures like walls, facades, glass windows, etc. Most often, these structures are largely passive offering little to no interactivity. In this paper, we present Duco, a large-scale electronics fabrication robot that enables room-scale & building-scale circuitry to add interactivity to vertical everyday surfaces. Duco negates the need for any human intervention by leveraging a hanging robotic system that automatically sketches multi-layered circuity to enable novel large-scale interfaces.

The key idea behind Duco is that it achieves single-layer or multi-layer circuit fabrication on 2D surfaces as well as 2D cutouts that can be assembled into 3D objects by loading various functional inks (e.g., conductive, dielectric, or cleaning) to the wall-hanging drawing robot, as well as employing an optional laser cutting head as a cutting tool.

[ Duco ]

Thanks Sai!

When you can't have robots fight each other in person because pandemic, you have to get creative.


Baidu researchers have proposed a novel reinforcement learning-based evolutionary foot trajectory generator that can continually optimize the shape of the output trajectory for a quadrupedal robot, from walking over the balance beam to climbing up and down slopes. Our approach can solve a range of challenging tasks in simulation by learning from scratch, including walking on a balance beam and crawling through a cave. To further verify the effectiveness of our approach, we deploy the controller learned in the simulation on a 12-DoF quadrupedal robot, and it can successfully traverse challenging scenarios with efficient gaits.

[ Paper ]

This is neat: a robot with just one depth camera can poke around a little bit where it can't see, and then use those contacts to give it a better idea of what's in front of it.


Here's a robotics problem: objects that look very similar but aren't! How can you efficiently tell the difference between objects that look almost the same, and how do you know when you need to make that determination?

[ Paper ]

Hyundai Motor Group has introduced its first project with Boston Dynamics. Meet the new 'Factory Safety Service Robot', based on Boston Dynamics' quadruped, Spot, and to support industrial site safety.

[ Boston Dynamics ]

I don't necessarily know how much credit to give DARPA for making this happen, but even small drones make constrained obstacle avoidance look so easy now.

[ ARL ]

Huh, maybe all in-home robots should have spiky wheels and articulated designs, since this seems very effective.

[ Transcend Robotics ]

Robotiq, who makes the grippers that everybody uses for everything, now has a screw driving solution.

[ Robotiq ]

Kodiak's latest autonomous truck design is interesting because of how they've structured their sensors: almost everything seems to be in two chonky pods that take the place of the wing mirrors.

[ Kodiak ]

Thanks Kylee!

An ICRA 2021 plenary talk from Robert Wood, on Soft Robotics for Delicate and Dexterous Manipulation.

[ ICRA 2021 ]

This week's Lockheed Martin Robotics Seminar features Henrik Christensen on "Deploying autonomous vehicles for micro-mobility on a university campus."

[ UMD ]

The Conversation (1)
Ajay Adumyakala 03 Oct, 2021

How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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