Video Friday: Anti-Drone Lasers, Robot Doctors, and Ikea Furniture Assembly

What happens when you mix anti-robot lasers with robot doctors and Ikea? Video Friday!

3 min read
Video Friday: Anti-Drone Lasers, Robot Doctors, and Ikea Furniture Assembly

I don't know about you, but I'm bushed. Zonked. Tuckered out. Well and truly knackered. National Robotics Week was tremendous, and we'll have piles of video for you over the next week or so from the conferences, forums, and events. Meanwhile, enjoy this Video Friday that's just as especially awesome as every Video Friday we've ever had up until now.

A robot that can help you assemble Ikea furniture? Uh, yes please:

This video shows the result of a learning by imitation approach that allows two users to demonstrate an assembly skill requiring different levels of compliance. Each item to assemble will have specific characteristic that needs that are transferred to the robot. Re-programming the robot for each new item to assemble would not be possible. Here, the robot can learn this skill by demonstration. One user is grasping the robot and moving it by hand to demonstrate how it should collaborate with another user (kinesthetic teaching). A force sensor mounted at the wrist of the robot and a marker-based vision tracking system is used to track the position and orientation of table legs that need to be mounted at four different point on the table top. After demonstration, the robot learns that it should first be compliant to let the user re-orient the table-top in a comfortable pose to screw the current leg. Once the user starts to screw the leg, the robot becomes stiff to facilitate the task. This behavior is not pre-programmed, but is instead learn by the robot by extracting the regularities of the task from multiple demonstrations.

More information about this experiment can be found in this paper published at AAAI'2013:

Credits: Leonel Rozo, Sylvain Calinon

Now, can it also serve me discount meatballs?



Ford has a lot of robots, and when you have a lot of robots (or even one robot), you'll definitely be needing a robot doctor. Meet this guy:

I'm pretty sure I can tell when the dude is saying "robot," but the rest of it is beyond me. Anyone care to translate some of the important bits?



This is Fritz. He's a (slightly offensive) animatronic puppet head that's super easy to build and program and very cheap, although he's also quite sophisticated with an impressive number of degrees of freedom:

Fritz is basically funded on Kickstarter, and if you pledge just $215, you'll get the entire kit.

[ Kickstarter ]



Last week, we speculated that this Makr Shakr thing might be able to make a robotic rum and coke. Turns out, it can do a lot more than that:

Makr Shakr is a robotic bar, able to prepare approximately one googol drink combinations based on crowd input. People will be able to design their own drinks learning from the recipes of others, and leaving tips for the next designer, through their handheld devices. The digital design system can also monitor the individual's alcohol consumption, promoting responsible drinking. Makr Shakr aims to show the "Third Industrial Revolution" paradigm through the simple process design-make-enjoy, and in just the time needed to prepare a new cocktail.

And for those of you lucky enough to score tickets to Google I/O, you'll be able to get drunk on the final version in person.

[ MakrShakr ]



Here in California, we live in a perpetual summer, and the only time we have to deal with snow is when we decide to go up to Tahoe for some world class skiing. For all the rest of y'all who have to suffer through real winters, you'll need to teach your robots some skills:




By now Baxter is familiar, but this vid has some new footage of him packing plastic parts in an actual factory:

[ Rethink Robotics ]



Check out Amsterdam from the perspective of than expertly piloted UAV in another Team Blacksheep video:

[ Team Blacksheep ]



As if trees and the FAA weren't problematic enough for drones, now they have to contend with frikkin' lasers:

Edited US Office of Naval Research video of the Laser Weapon System (LaWS), on the destroyer USS Dewey, shooting down a target drone representing a threat UAV off San Diego in August 2012. Developed by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren, the prototype LaWS is based on a high-power industrial fiber laser and is designed to defend ships against UAVs and fast-attack craft. An operational demonstration is planned for early 2014 in the Gulf of Arabia, on the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce.



This is a lovely little pre-post-apocalyptic short film about a robotic workforce of slackers with weird accents:

[ Media Design School ]



What's it like to experience your robotic replacement stalking you, and then get your self-confidence ripped out by it in a gameshow? Ken Jennings knows, and we'll wrap things up today with this TED Talk where he explains how it feels to get absolutely wrecked by an artificial intelligence:

The Conversation (0)

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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