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Video Friday: Africa's Lake Kivu Drone Challenge

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

3 min read
A team prepares their drone to compete in the Lake Kivu Challenge in Rwanda.
A team prepares their drone to compete in the Lake Kivu Challenge in Rwanda.
Photo: Lake Kivu Challenge

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!):

DARPA SubT Urban Circuit – February 18-27, 2020 – Olympia, Wash., USA
HRI 2020 – March 23-26, 2020 – Cambridge, U.K.
ICARSC 2020 – April 15-17, 2020 – Ponta Delgada, Azores
ICRA 2020 – May 31-4, 2020 – Paris, France
ICUAS 2020 – June 9-12, 2020 – Athens, Greece
CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – Moscow, Russia

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

These videos show some highlights from the Lake Kivu Challenge, which took place in Rwanda earlier this month. In addition to a conference and forum, international teams and their drones competed in emergency delivery, sample pick-up, and find and assess tasks.

[ Lake Kivu Challenge ]

The DARPA SubT Challenge Urban Circuit is ON!!!

[ SubT ]

One of the ways Microsoft trains autonomous systems is participating in research focused on solving real-world challenges, like aiding first responders in hazardous scenarios. This week, our collaborators at Carnegie Mellon University and Oregon State University, collectively named Team Explorer, are demonstrating tech breakthroughs in this area as they compete in the Feb 18-27, 2020 DARPA Subterranean (SubT) Urban Challenge in Elma, Washington.

The team is looking for another win after taking first place in round one of the DARPA SubT Challenge, the Tunnel Circuit, in August 2019. The competition continues with the Cave Circuit later in 2020, wrapping up with a final event incorporating all three underground environments in 2021.

[ Explorer ] via [ Microsoft ]

Spot can pull rickshaws now?

[ Tested ] via [ Gizmodo ]

Robot hugs!

Roboy is not only the most human Robot, with it’s muscles and tendons - it’s also the most cuddly! At CIIE in November 2019, Roboy has been hugging more than 2800 people- connecting robots to humans and building relationships that last.

[ Roboy ]

Fabian Kung from Malaysia wrote in to share a video of a robot that he's been working on: "We designed and build this mini agile robot as part of our efforts in robotics and artificial intelligence research. It is kept small to reduce the cost and built time. Besides, there is less safety issue with small machine."

[ MMU ]

Thanks Fabian!

Happy (belated) Valentine's Day from Robotiq!

[ Robotiq ]

Happy (belated) Valentine's Day from Sphero!

C'mon dude, just pick all four. They're robots!

[ Sphero ]

Craving a bite out of a freshly grilled ballpark frank? Two robots named Jaco and Baxter can serve one up. Boston University engineers have made a jump in using machine learning to teach robots to perform complex tasks, a framework that could be applied to a host of tasks, like identifying cancerous spots on mammograms or better understanding spoken commands to play music. But first, as a proof of concept—they’ve learned how to prepare the perfect hot dog.

[ BU ]

The latest version of ETH Zurich's Ascento wheel-leg robot has gotten way more robust and capable over the last year.

[ Ascento ]

Snakes live in diverse environments ranging from unbearably hot deserts to lush tropical forests. But regardless of their habitat, they are able to slither up trees, rocks, and shrubbery with ease. By studying how the creatures move, a team of Johns Hopkins engineers have created a snake robot that can nimbly and stably climb large steps. The team's new findings, published in Journal of Experimental Biology and Royal Society Open Science, could advance the creation of search and rescue robots that can successfully navigate treacherous terrain.

[ JHU ]

In a recent demo conducted in Israel, RAFAEL’s Drone Dome C-UAS system performed interceptions of multiple drones, including maneuvering targets, using its hard-kill LASER BEAM director. The system achieved 100% success in all test scenarios. The stages of the interceptions included target detection, identification, and interception with a high-power LASER beam.

[ Rafael ]

EPFL has a little bit of robotics going on sometimes, you know?

[ EPFL ]

This video is basically an ad for ABB, but it's always fun to see robots picking stuff, especially when some of that stuff is tasty.

[ ABB ]

Hayk Martirosyan from Skydio gave a lecture as part of Pieter Abbeel's robotics course at UC Berkeley—this is where you hear about all the secret stuff Skydio is working on next.

[ UC Berkeley ]

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
LightGreen

“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.

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

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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