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)

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

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"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.

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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