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Video Friday: Atlas Jogging, Launch, and Robotic Warehouse

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

6 min read

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum's Digital Innovation Director.

Boston Dynamics' Atlas humanoid robot jogging
Image: Boston Dynamics via YouTube

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!):

NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 14-18, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA
ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia
Dynamic Walking Conference – May 21-24, 2018 – Pensacola, Fla., USA
RoboCup 2018 – June 18-22, 2018 – Montreal, Canada
RSS 2018 – June 26-30, 2018 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA
Ubiquitous Robots 2018 – June 27-30, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii
MARSS 2018 – July 4-8, 2018 – Nagoya, Japan
AIM 2018 – July 9-12, 2018 – Auckland, New Zealand
ICARM 2018 – July 18-20, 2018 – Singapore
ICMA 2018 – August 5-8, 2018 – Changchun, China
SSRR 2018 – August 6-8, 2018 – Philadelphia, Pa., USA

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

Boston Dynamics posted some awesome new videos this week; the first shows Atlas jogging (!):

Jogging involves a flight phase, which means that the robot is spending time completely airborne during each gait cycle. It takes much more energy to do this relative to walking, which is more like a continuous controlled fall forward. Atlas even looks kind of humanlike as it jogs: You could almost (almost!) imagine a human jogging in the same way. It sort of looks to me like Atlas is a little bit on the prancy side, and could use more push-off in the toes to better match a natural human jogging gait. However, just because Atlas doesn’t jog like we do doesn’t mean that it’s not jogging optimally for its own design.

The second video from BD this week shows SpotMini doing some extended autonomous navigation through a premapped area:

A few things about this one: The stair-climbing behavior is cool to watch, with the robot going downstairs backward since that’s the optimal orientation for its knees. We saw DRC Hubo doing the same sort of thing during the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals. I’m wondering whether this particular stair-descending behavior was scripted, or whether the robot is able to autonomously determine the best gait to use for different kinds of terrain. I also liked SpotMini’s abrupt change of direction right at the end of the video, where it sticks a foot out to help it quickly stop and turn. That looks like it could be an emergent behavior, and it’s very animal-like.

[ Boston Dynamics ]

We barely missed Star Wars Day last week, so let’s get caught up.

[ Star Wars ] just launched a new autonomous vehicle ride-sharing service in Frisco, Texas. We were there, and wrote a massive article over on our Cars That Think blog, but here are a few highlights from the event.

I am somewhere in this video but I’m not going to tell you where.

[ ]

If you can afford a presumably massive up-front investment, Ocado makes some impressively dense robotic warehouses:

Fun fact: Each day, the Andover robot fleet (about 1,100 robots) travels a distance that equates to 4.5 times around the planet.

Ocado ]

Where can ANYmal go? ANYwhere!

Look at that, a legged robot showing how it can actually do useful applications, today.

[ ANYbotics ]

Thanks, Péter!

Genesis Robotics released a 110-mm version of their LiveDrive radial flux motor at Hannover Messe.

Genesis says that their motors are 100 times more precise than traditional electric motors, and we’re excited to see them get these things out of the reference design stage and into some actual robots doing useful stuff.

[ Genesis Robotics ]

Thanks, Cale!

Latest innovation of Delft Dynamics: the Releasable Drone concept! Combining the advantage of an unlimited flight endurance of a (powered) cable drone, with the freedom in airspace of a free flying drone. In this video the concept is explained and demonstrated with a DroneCatcher system. In this way, the DroneCatcher can be immediately deployed after detection of an unwanted drone.

[ Delft Dynamics ]

One of Misty’s big selling points is that it’s supereasy for anyone with even basic programming skills to get it to do cool and useful stuff. This video takes you through some of the ways in which you can teach Misty to do things.

And one more Misty video about how Misty was designed to be interactive and compelling for users.

[ Misty Robotics ]

Reduce pollution, operate a robot, and be part of the future with Robot Missions Municipal Trials! Robot Missions is a grassroots group that empowers communities to apply low-cost robots for environmental challenges, such as shoreline cleanup. The Municipal Trials will show how we can reduce pollution on our beaches and parks, while educating the public in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

Crowdfunding now on Kickstarter.

[ Kickstarter ] via [ Robot Missions ]

This study presents a novel four-fingered robotic hand to attain a soft contact and high stability under disturbances while holding an object. Each finger is constructed using a tendon-driven skeleton, granular materials corresponding to finger pulp, and a deformable rubber skin. This structure provides soft contact with an object, as well as high adaptation to its shape. Even if the object is deformable and fragile, a grasping posture can be formed without deforming the object. If the air around the granular materials in the rubber skin and jamming transition is vacuumed, the grasping posture can be fixed and the object can be grasped firmly and stably. A high grasping stability under disturbances can be attained. Additionally, the fingertips can work as a small jamming gripper to grasp an object smaller than a fingertip. An experimental investigation indicated that the proposed structure provides a high grasping force with a jamming transition with high adaptability to the object’s shape.

“Multi-fingered Robotic Hand based on Hybrid Mechanism of Tendon-Driven and Jamming Transition,” by Kaori Mizushima, Takumi Oku, Yosuke Suzuki, Tokuo Tsuji, and Tetsuyou Watanabe from Kanazawa University in Japan, was presented at RoboSoft 2018.

[ HMI Lab ]

ACHIRES is one of my favorite bipedal robots, simply because of its single-mindedness. It runs. That’s it. It just keeps on running.


The Torc self-driving car not only conquered daytime driving in the snow, it also traveled on a variety of routes at night during one of the biggest snowfalls of the winter. In this clip, Asimov navigates autonomously around a traffic circle at night. Our team uses multiple methods in perception and navigation to allow the system to know where lane lines are on the road, even though the markings are covered in a blanket of snow. This allows Asimov to perform the necessary lane changes to stay on its planned route through the circle.

[ TORC Robotics ]

Polariant has a system for indoor 3D localization using polarized light, inspired by desert ants. Here it is on a Turtlebot:

[ Polariant ]

Thanks Pyo!

Super Anthony is the world-class ROBO-ONE robotic competition champion. This agile fighter enters the arena with 15 patented wear-resistant servomotors and overpowering 45 kg-cm torque. He will be your best companion in the Robot Age and motivate you to learn to program. STEM can be more exciting than you think!

I like how that dude programming the robot looked legit terrified of it. It’ll be on Kickstarter as of May 15.

[ Super Anthony ]

Thanks, Charlotte!

Cassie Blue visited the First Robotics World Championships, and shared a robot’s-eye-view of the event. You probably don’t need to watch the entire 23 minutes, but it’s fun to see people’s reactions when the robot sneaks up behind them.

[ Michigan Robotics ]

Introduction to HEBI Robotics, a Pittsburgh start-up that is making it easy to create custom robots.

[ HEBI Robotics ]

The American roboticist and roboethicist Ronald C. Arkin on the possibilities of robotics, artificial intelligence and robot companions. Which ethical questions follow here and why is it necessary to deal in a responsible way with the programming and pretensioning of emotions in robots? A video interview on the occasion of the 48th St.Gallen Symposium.

[ St. Gallen Symposium ]

In this week’s episode of Robots in Depth, Per interviews Dirk Thomas, from whatever the Open Source Robotics Foundation is calling itself these days.

Dirk Thomas talks about his work with ROS at the OSR Foundation. We hear about how programmers and roboticists can benefit from being part of and contributing to the open source community. Dirk discusses the development of ROS and how it is being used both in academia and in commercial projects. He also shares his thoughts on the future development of ROS and how it can support advancements in robotics overall.

[ Robots in Depth ]

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