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Video Friday: ANYmal in Davos, ISS Robot Upgrade, and WALK-MAN's Soft Hands

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

5 min read

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum's Digital Innovation Director.

WALK-MAN humanoid robot from IIT
Photo: IIT/WALK-MAN Project

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!):

IEEE IRC 2018 – January 31-February 2, 2018 – Laguna Hills, Calif., USA
International Symposium on Medical Robotics – March 1-3, 2018 – Atlanta, Ga., USA
HRI 2018 – March 5-8, 2018 – Chicago, Ill., USA
RoboSoft 2018 – April 24-28, 2018 – Livorno, Italy
ICARSC 2018 – April 25-27, 2018 – Torres Vedras, Portugal
ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia

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

ANYmal was at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where it got cold feet.

ANYmal ]

Robot arm maintenance in space is much more difficult than robot arm maintenance on Earth, but you get quite the view.

Outside the International Space Station, Expedition 54 Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Scott Tingle of NASA conducted the first spacewalk this year Jan. 23 to replace a degraded latching end effector (LEE) on one end of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. There are two redundant end effectors on each end of the arm used to grapple visiting vehicles and components during a variety of operational activities.


This recently released video, part of a Humanoids 2016 paper, describes  inflatable impact-protection palms on WALK-MAN:

This paper reports on the development of a new pneumatically actuated impact protection system which can be applied to protect humanoid robots during high impact physical interactions. The proposed device is based on a soft inflating vessel which is integrated and validated on the hands of a humanoid robot WALK-MAN. The system incorporates an active pressure control unit with on-off solenoid valves that permit the regulation of the air pressure of the protection chamber. The impact protection system is smaller and lighter than a rubber-based passive protection previously mounted on the hands, while it offers better impact reduction performance via fast and accurate pressure control. The effectiveness of the system is verified by actual physical interaction experiments with WALK-MAN while the robot is falling against an inclined surface, making contact with its hands to support its body and prevent falling and damage.

Dimitrios Kanoulas ]

Check out this new Cassie in crimson.

Scott Kuindersma, assistant professor of engineering and computer science, is conducting research on how to control robotic motion, seeking to emulate some of the most complex motions of the animal kingdom, like the cliff-hugging dash of a mountain goat or a forest bird’s flitting through the trees. His lab recently received a two-legged robot made by Agility Robotics and Kuindersma and colleagues are designing algorithms that can make it move with speed and agility.

[ Harvard Agile Robotics Lab ]

A new joystick developed by startup MotionPilot lets users fly drones with just one hand in a fun, intuitive way. One version of this device includes a haptic feedback mechanism that gives users a sense of the drone’s position as it moves through the air. Drone aficionados were recently impressed by a prototype, and the device could hit the market soon.

[ EPFL ]

NASA’s InSight Mars lander tests its solar panel deployment at JPL. 

While in its landed configuration for the last time before arriving on Mars, NASA’s InSight lander was commanded to deploy its solar arrays to test and verify the exact process that it will use on the surface of the Red Planet. During the test on Jan. 23, 2018, in a Lockheed Martin clean room in Littleton, Colorado, engineers and technicians evaluated that the solar arrays fully deployed and conducted an illumination test to confirm that the solar cells were collecting power.

[ JPL ]

Chris Atkeson may have a new robot from HEBI:

[ Igor ] via [ Chris Atkeson ]

José del R. Millán, who leads the brain-machine interface lab at EPFL, discusses a new brainwave-controlled lightweight exoskeleton that his group is developing.

EPFL scientists are developing a lightweight and portable hand exoskeleton that can be controlled with brainwaves. The device enhances performance of brain-machine interfaces and can restore functional grasps for the physically impaired.

[ EPFL ]

DJI introduced this week a new consumer drone, the $800 Mavic Air, which is more expensive than the Spark but less expensive than the Mavic Pro. The foldable drone is lightweight, portable, and features a gimbaled 4K camera.

[ DJI ]

Here’s the third installement of Team Blacksheep’s “Long Term Paradise” series, from some of the best FPV drone pilots on the planet.

[ Team BlackSheep ]

Here’s an overview of the nuclear spent fuel inspection and dismantlement robots at the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute’s robot lab; we’ve written about most of them already, but for some extra entertainment you should turn on the autotranslated subtitles.

Did the actual size of that arm at the end surprise anyone else?


This video describes our research on learning abstract symbolic representations for planning. We show that, given a set of motor skills, a robot can learn an abstract representation—autonomously, and starting with its own sensorimotor space - that provably supports high-level planning.

[ IRL ]

The European Robotics League Service Robots competition happened this week in Edinburgh, and Team Homer was there with their helpful robot, Lisa:

Here you see what it means to be a granny in the future. As an owner of a super modern smart home that interfaces with a even more modern service robot (in this case Lisa) we don’t even have to move to operate devices or to get glasses or drinks.

This video shows the Welcoming Visitors task for the European Robotics League in Edinburgh. Lisa is reacting on the doorbell and checks who the visitor is and acts accordingly. The postman should place the parcel in the hall. The delivery men should place the delivery on the kitchen table and Dr. Kindle should be guided to a sick person in the bedroom. An unknown person should be rejected at the entrance.

[ Koblenz ]

From AJ+, a three-part video series: “Robots are already changing jobs as an endless array of robots enter our everyday lives. From trucking to service work to high-end jobs like doctors and lawyers, this documentary explores how robotics and artificial intelligence are changing the workplace.”

[ AJ+ ] via [ Robohub ]

This week’s CMU RI seminar is from Greg Mori at SFU, on “Deep Structured Models for Human Activity Recognition.”

Visual recognition involves reasoning about structured relations at multiple levels of detail. For example, human behaviour analysis requires a comprehensive labeling covering individual low-level actions to pair-wise interactions through to high-level events. Scene understanding can benefit from considering labels and their inter-relations. In this talk I will present recent work by our group building deep learning approaches capable of modeling these structures. I will present models for learning trajectory features that represent individual human actions, and hierarchical temporal models for group activity recognition. General purpose structured inference machines will be described, building from notions of message passing within graphical models. These will be used in models for inferring individual and group activity and modeling structured relations for image labeling problems.

[ CMU RI ]

The latest episode of Robots in Depth features Aseem Prakash, a futurist at the Center for Innovating the Future:

Aseem Prakash talks about how we can prepare for co-existing with robots, AI and other new technologies. What will the future with robots look like and how can we prepare to maximize the benefits. He also talks about studying how tomorrow unfolds and develop a strategy that will help us adapt to new technologies and how we best integrate them in our lives, private or professional. Aseem then brings up the risk of not preparing, keeping up to date with what is happening and thinking about how these developments will affect your business or organization. He ask the question, when we co-exist with 5-10 or even hundreds of robots and smart systems, what will that look like? A very important question that everyone needs to answer for themselves privately as well as in their business, and that we as a society have to answer collectively.

[ Robots in Depth ]

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