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Video Friday: Attack of the Hexapod Robots

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

5 min read
Hexapod robots from HEBI Robotics
Image: HEBI Robotics

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!):

IROS 2020 – October 25-25, 2020 – [Online]
ROS World 2020 – November 12, 2020 – [Online]
CYBATHLON 2020 – November 13-14, 2020 – [Online]
ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colo., USA

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

Happy Halloween from HEBI Robotics!

Thanks Hardik!

[ HEBI Robotics ]

Happy Halloween from Berkshire Grey!

[ Berkshire Grey ]

These are some preliminary results of our lab’s new work on using reinforcement learning to train neural networks to imitate common bipedal gait behaviors, without using any motion capture data or reference trajectories. Our method is described in an upcoming submission to ICRA 2021. Work by Jonah Siekmann and Yesh Godse.


The northern goshawk is a fast, powerful raptor that flies effortlessly through forests. This bird was the design inspiration for the next-generation drone developed by scientifics of the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems of EPFL led by Dario Floreano. They carefully studied the shape of the bird’s wings and tail and its flight behavior, and used that information to develop a drone with similar characteristics.

The engineers already designed a bird-inspired drone with morphing wing back in 2016. In a step forward, their new model can adjust the shape of its wing and tail thanks to its artificial feathers. Flying this new type of drone isn’t easy, due to the large number of wing and tail configurations possible. To take full advantage of the drone’s flight capabilities, Floreano’s team plans to incorporate artificial intelligence into the drone’s flight system so that it can fly semi-automatically. The team’s research has been published in Science Robotics.

[ EPFL ]


[ Roborace ]

We’ve covered MIT’s Roboats in the past, but now they’re big enough to keep a couple of people afloat.

Self-driving boats have been able to transport small items for years, but adding human passengers has felt somewhat intangible due to the current size of the vessels. Roboat II is the “half-scale” boat in the growing body of work, and joins the previously developed quarter-scale Roboat, which is 1 meter long. The third installment, which is under construction in Amsterdam and is considered to be “full scale,” is 4 meters long and aims to carry anywhere from four to six passengers.

[ MIT ]

With a training technique commonly used to teach dogs to sit and stay, Johns Hopkins University computer scientists showed a robot how to teach itself several new tricks, including stacking blocks. With the method, the robot, named Spot, was able to learn in days what typically takes a month.

[ JHU ]

Exyn, a pioneer in autonomous aerial robot systems for complex, GPS-denied industrial environments, today announced the first dog, Kody, to successfully fly a drone at Number 9 Coal Mine, in Lansford, PA. Selected to carry out this mission was the new autonomous aerial robot, the ExynAero.

Yes, this is obviously a publicity stunt, and Kody is only flying the drone in the sense that he’s pushing the launch button and then taking a nap. But that’s also the point— drone autonomy doesn’t get much fuller than this, despite the challenge of the environment.

[ Exyn ]

In this video object instance segmentation and shape completion are combined with classical regrasp planning to perform pick-place of novel objects. It is demonstrated with a UR5, Robotiq 85 parallel-jaw gripper, and Structure depth sensor with three rearrangement tasks: bin packing (minimize the height of the packing), placing bottles onto coasters, and arrange blocks from tallest to shortest (according to the longest edge). The system also accounts for uncertainty in the segmentation/completion by avoiding grasping or placing on parts of the object where perceptual uncertainty is predicted to be high.

[ Paper ] via [ Northeastern ]

Thanks Marcus!

U can’t touch this!

[ University of Tokyo ]

We introduce a way to enable more natural interaction between humans and robots through Mixed Reality, by using a shared coordinate system. Azure Spatial Anchors, which already supports colocalizing multiple HoloLens and smartphone devices in the same space, has now been extended to support robots equipped with cameras. This allows humans and robots sharing the same space to interact naturally: humans can see the plan and intention of the robot, while the robot can interpret commands given from the person’s perspective. We hope that this can be a building block in the future of humans and robots being collaborators and coworkers.

[ Microsoft ]

Some very high jumps from the skinniest quadruped ever.

[ ODRI ]

In this video we present recent efforts to make our humanoid robot LOLA ready for multi-contact locomotion, i.e. additional hand-environment support for extra stabilization during walking.

[ TUM ]

Classic bike moves from Dr. Guero.

[ Dr. Guero ]

For a robotics company, iRobot is OLD.

[ iRobot ]

The Canadian Space Agency presents Juno, a preliminary version of a rover that could one day be sent to the Moon or Mars. Juno can navigate autonomously or be operated remotely. The Lunar Exploration Analogue Deployment (LEAD) consisted in replicating scenarios of a lunar sample return mission.

[ CSA ]

How exactly does the Waymo Driver handle a cat cutting across its driving path? Jonathan N., a Product Manager on our Perception team, breaks it all down for us.

Now do kangaroos.

[ Waymo ]

Jibo is hard at work at MIT playing games with kids.

Children’s creativity plummets as they enter elementary school. Social interactions with peers and playful environments have been shown to foster creativity in children. Digital pedagogical tools often lack the creativity benefits of co-located social interaction with peers. In this work, we leverage a social embodied robot as a playful peer and designed Escape!Bot, a game involving child-robot co-play, where the robot is a social agent that scaffolds for creativity during gameplay.

[ Paper ]

It’s nice when convenience stores are convenient even for the folks who have to do the restocking.

Who’s moving the crates around, though?

[ Telexistence ]

Hi, fans ! Join the ROS World 2020, opening November 12th , and see the footage of ROBOTIS’ ROS platform robots :)

[ ROS World 2020 ]

ML/RL methods are often viewed as a magical black box, and while that’s not true, learned policies are nonetheless a valuable tool that can work in conjunction with the underlying physics of the robot. In this video, Agility CTO Jonathan Hurst - wearing his professor hat at Oregon State University - presents some recent student work on using learned policies as a control method for highly dynamic legged robots.

[ Agility Robotics ]

Here’s an ICRA Legged Robots workshop talk from Marco Hutter at ETH Zürich, on Autonomy for ANYmal.

Recent advances in legged robots and their locomotion skills has led to systems that are skilled and mature enough for real-world deployment. In particular, quadrupedal robots have reached a level of mobility to navigate complex environments, which enables them to take over inspection or surveillance jobs in place like offshore industrial plants, in underground areas, or on construction sites. In this talk, I will present our research work with the quadruped ANYmal and explain some of the underlying technologies for locomotion control, environment perception, and mission autonomy. I will show how these robots can learn and plan complex maneuvers, how they can navigate through unknown environments, and how they are able to conduct surveillance, inspection, or exploration scenarios.

[ RSL ]

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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