Video Friday: Scary UAVs, Friendly Exoskeletons, and Cheetah Gets a Tail

Now that Curiosity is safely on Mars, we'll get you caught up with this week's other robotics news

2 min read
Video Friday: Scary UAVs, Friendly Exoskeletons, and Cheetah Gets a Tail

Curiosity self-portrait. Larger version here.

It's been a huge week for robots. Hopefully, you were able to follow along with us at JPL while we watched Curiosity land, and the landing, while arguably the most exciting part, is just the beginning of the awesomeness that we're expecting to come from the robot as it starts exploring Mars. We'll keep bringing you updates (albeit at a slightly less frantic pace) as Curiosity starts to drive around, and we're already planning a trip back to JPL to learn more about her autonomous capabilities.

Meanwhile, we've been neglecting some other robots a little bit since we've been covering Mars 24/7, so let's get caught up on everything else that's been going on with today's Video Friday.

Also taking place last week was AUVSI Unmanned Systems North America in Las Vegas, and we heard that the expo hall was pretty wild this year. Lockheed Martin put together a highlight vid of some of the programs and systems that it featured this year, set to some music from The Matrix, if I'm not mistaken.



Ekso Bionics has introduced a new version of its rehab exoskeletion, featuring several new walking modes and a wireless sensing system.

Still no word on when we can expect a model that will turn us all into superheroes.

[ Ekso Bionics ]



Speaking of exoskeletons, this is a slightly less fancy version that a little girl named Emma uses to help her compensate for underdeveloped arms. The Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (or WREX, no relation) is a 3D printed wearable framework with elastic bands that make Emma's arms weightless so that she can move them around: 

We're really looking forward to the day when 3D printers will be just another appliance that everyone will have at home, so that this kind of thing can be even easier to do.

[ Stratasys ]



Travis at Hizook got a tour of Artiaic a while back; it's a company that uses robots to create tile mosaics faster and more efficiently than humans can:

[ Artaic ] via [ Hizook ]



We've seen some great examples of how useful tails can be for fast-moving robots, so it makes perfect sense that if you're building a robotic cheetah (like MIT is), you'll want to give it a tail too. And it works, even when your robot is standing still:

[ MIT ]



And we'll finish up this week with a TED talk by Ken Goldberg from UC Berkeley on "4 Lessons from Robots about Being Human."

[ TEDxBerkeley ]

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

“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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