Video Friday: April Fool's, Festo Flying Spheres, and Giant Crab Robot

Three of these videos are definitely jokes

6 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

Video Friday: April Fool's, Festo Flying Spheres, and Giant Crab Robot

As you may have noticed, it was April Fool's Day on Tuesday. We journalists absolutely dread this day, because all of the news is fake, and not only does it drive us nuts, but it makes us suspicious of anything that gets announced immediately before or after. So, for the record, Carol Reiley and Andrew Ng are engaged, and there is a bionic robot kangaroo, but the first few videos below are definitely jokes.

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[ Suitable Technologies ]


Sphero #Selfiebot

#SelfieBot is fully autonomous and capable of flight. Forged from cutting-edge technology and programmed with advanced artificial intelligence, #SelfieBot hovers at your side and records your life in high definition. Free yourself from smartphone #selfie limitations. Reserve yours before it sells out.

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[ Sphero ]


Razer Eidolon

The Razer Eidolon is your eye in the sky. It follows you at preset configurations and seamlessly streams the footage directly to your vision via its 3D 1080p 60 FPS 12 Megapixel camera.

The heart of the Razer Eidolon is the Wrist Command Module. In classic Razer styling this black and green gauntlet of game docks and charges your Drone unit in addition to serving as a programmable control station. Train your Drone to recognize gestures in tandem with voice commands. Manual Override mode lets you assume full control of flight with unrivaled precision motion-sensing technology.

Your new perspective on life is in crisp high-definition 3D. Thin, comfortable, and re-usable, The Membrain Lenses display with the Drone unit camera captures. This self-powered display is built with radically complex, cutting-edge microscopic that is motion and light sensitive. This self-powered display interface intelligently and gracefully switches between Third-person and First-person view. They can even replace your prescription lenses. Best of all? You'll forget you're wearing anything. In your sight. Out of mind.

[ Razer ]



Festo's robotic kangaroo certainly attracted the most attention this week, but the company has a few other new robotic systems that it's recently demonstrated:


With the eMotionSpheres, Festo shows how several flying objects can move -- individually or collectively -- in a coordinated manner and within a defined space. 

Adaptive propellers with profile modification

The spheres’ propellers are made of a sturdy frame covered with a flexible membrane. The laser-sintered frame is twisted once, thus making a figure of eight.

As the film is not under complete tension, it inflates on one side or the other, depending on which direction the propeller is turning. This creates a passive effect, which also occurs on the flapping wings of the artificial dragonfly.

Identical thrust performance in both directions

On each sphere there are eight of these adaptive propellers, which act as drives. They supply up to 42 g of thrust both forwards and backwards and are thus equally efficient in both directions.

Until now, that has only been found in very few applications, for example in the heavy rudder propellers on ships. In flying objects, this efficient combination of equal thrust performance in two directions is even a genuine first. As the propellers weigh less than one gram, the direction can be changed almost without any delay.

The eight drives are attached along the equator of the spheres,four of them aligned horizontally. They enable the spheres to fly, climb or descend quickly up and down. Thanks to the four vertical propellers, the spheres can move horizontally in all directions and rotate about their vertical axis.

Precise steering and control

Four of the propellers are screwed anticlockwise and the other four clockwise, with an anticlockwise drive always being located opposite a clockwise one. In this way, the torques are neutralised and the spheres can be steered in any spatial direction to an accuracy of one centimetre. The spheres themselves are controlled locally by the activation of the eight motors.

The corresponding onboard electronics with 12 processors are installed in the spheres, as are the radio unit, the battery and four power LEDs, which light up to help the choreography in an optical manner. The four infrared markers used for communicating with the cameras are embedded in the shell, which is made of a PE/PP film.

eMotion Spheres ]


MultiChoice Gripper

It combines parallel and centric gripping without elaborate modification. Its adaptive fingers with Fin Ray structure adapt flexibly to the most varied shapes. 

Movement with pneumatics

The MultiChoiceGripper is attached to an articulated robot. The robot arm supplies the gripper with three compressed air lines. These provide the compressed air needed to change the grip direction, to move the finger elements and to lock the gripping finger slots.

The connection panel between gripper and robot arm acts both as a support system for the compressed air lines and a distributor, which supplies the gripper and fingers with compressed air.

Universal finger elements with integrated drive

The built-in cylinders, which are used for changing the grip direction and locking the finger elements, are located in the gripper’s base element. Each element also features an integrated pneumatic microcylinder, which moves the finger joint. Each finger element therefore has its own drive system and can also be operated independently of the gripper’s base body using compressed air. This means that the fingers could now also be fitted to other base bodies.

Easy finger changeover with no need for tools

The number of finger elements on the gripper can vary between two and six. Thanks to the holder’s T-groove shape, they are easily replaceable. No tools are required to do this – pulling them out or attaching them is sufficient. In this respect, both adaptive, flexible finger elements and a fixed version are available.

MultiChoice Gripper ]



Vstone makes hobby robots that play soccer. Watch them soccer!

[ Vstone ]



Texas A&M University's AMBER 2 legged robot is learning how to dance. Sort of.

Yeah, okay, that's still way better dancing than I know how to do.

[ AMBER Lab ]



UMD's robotic raven (creatively named Robo Raven IV) can now fly outside autonomously. It uses GPS to orbit a center point, stabilizing itself as it does so through control of its flapping wings alone:

Looks almost exactly like a real bird, doesn't it?

[ UMD Robotics ]



UPenn's CKbot is INDESTRUCTIBLE. Even if you kick it in the unmentionables and blast it into chunks, it'll just crawl around and find its bits and pieces and reassemble. Awesome, but uh, maybe a little creepy, right?

Hmm. When I try this with my robots, they don't usually manage to put themselves back together again.

[ CKbot ]



DASH is still getting its control systems tweaked before it starts shipping out to its crowdfunding backers, but these videos should give you an idea of what controlling it is going to be like:


[ Dash Robotics ]



Why do you want an AR Drone with a GPS upgrade? One very simple reason: it'll always come back to you if it gets lost with an autonomous "Return Home" function.

[ Parrot AR Drone ]



PAL Robotics' REEM-C has learned how to sit down in a human-sized chair and then stand up again. This is tricky because the robot has to significantly shift its center of gravity while maintaining balance, but REEM-C makes it look easy:

[ PAL Robotics ]



The University of Kansas' Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets has been using an adorable little radar-equipped unmanned aircraft to map ice thicknesses in Antarctica:

[ CReSIS ]



I never get tired of watching the Crabster CR200 walk around. It's just so, you know, big. And crabby. This video shows the robot demonstrating a variety of gaits, including pentapod, tetrapod, discrete, and continuous (wave) gaits.




An update on Astrobotic, which we've been following for half-decade now.

Astrobotic’s rover development group at Carnegie Mellon University is developing the Mobility Testbed – a rover to facilitate testing representative of the rover that will fly on Astrobotic’s mission to the Moon’s Lacus Mortis region. The Mobility Testbed has the same mobility configuration as the “protoflight” rover that will undergo environmental testing during the Milestone Prize Accomplishment Round but is constructed primarily out of terrestrial-grade components and materials. This reduces cost and lead times while maintaining the physical attributes needed to conduct mobility tests representative of the eventual flight article.

[ Astrobotic ]



The NSF's Science Nation has a feature on Sarah Bergbreiter from UMD and the insect-scale robots that she's been working on:

[ UMD Robotics ]



We'll wrap with a TED Talk from Hugh Herr, head of MIT's Biomechatronics Lab:

Hugh Herr is building the next generation of bionic limbs, robotic prosthetics inspired by nature's own designs. Herr lost both legs in a climbing accident 30 years ago; now, as the head of the MIT Media Lab's Biomechatronics group, he shows his incredible technology in a talk that's both technical and deeply personal — with the help of ballroom dancer Adrianne Haslet-Davis, who lost her left leg in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and performs again for the first time on the TED stage.

[ MIT Biomechatronics ] via [ TED ]


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