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Video Friday: Bacteria Driving Robot, Drone With Gun, and Freaky Snakebot

The most exciting place in robotics right now: Video Friday

4 min read
Video Friday: Bacteria Driving Robot, Drone With Gun, and Freaky Snakebot
Image: OC Robotics

It is the height of summer (at least in my hemisphere), and many of you are enjoying a nice and relaxing vacation. But don’t get too relaxed, people: it’s not too early to start looking forward to fall robotics events. IROS 2015 will be in Hamburg, Germany this year, and it will be followed immediately by ROSCon right next door. Come the end of September, Hamburg is going to be the most exciting place in robotics. Right now, though, the most exciting place in robotics is right here, for Video Friday.

“Mobile robots that harbor living colonies of bacteria that direct the robots’ behavior.” What could possibly go wrong!

For future experiments, Ruder is building real-world robots that will have the ability to read bacterial gene expression levels in E. coli using miniature fluorescent microscopes. The robots will respond to bacteria he will engineer in his lab.

[ Nature ] via [ VT ]

There’s no escaping Romeo’s body orientation:

[ Romeo ]

Take it from a journalist: this is by far the most difficult thing about robotics research:

They did get it to work eventually:

[ McGill URC ]

“It was more than a year in the making, but researchers at NASA's Langley Research Center have finally completed their first Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved drone flight at the Hampton, Virginia facility.”

And it was so easy!

“First we had to satisfy the Air Force that we could fly vehicles safely and not jeopardize their operations at Langley Air Force Base,” said Howie Lewis, head of the Research Service Directorate that oversees all aircraft flights at NASA Langley. “While the Air Force operates the airspace the FAA still owns it. So after we got the OK from the Air Force we had to go to the FAA and get a Certificate of Authorization or COA. Once we got that from the FAA we handed that approval back to the Air Force to finalize our processes and procedures.”

Aircraft have to be remotely controlled, weigh less than 25 pounds, fly under 400 feet, go slower than 75 knots and be registered and labeled with an official FAA “N-number.” Researchers must go through the UAS Operations Office to schedule flight time, because the Air Force has to be notified at least two and a half hours in advance, NASA Langley security must be told and a NASA range safety officer has to be on site during the tests.

[ NASA ]

Here’s a bit more on the Bebionic small hand that we covered last month:

[ Bebionic ]

RoboBoat 2015 happened last week in Virginia, and here’s a recap by our friend Zoz:

[ RoboBoat ]

Next week is RoboSub 2015, which means that it’s a bit premature for a recap, but here’s a look at Cornell’s entry:


[ RoboSub ]

With what one assumes has to have been a slightly larger budget than Cornell, Boeing also has an unmanned submarine:

[ Echo Seeker ]

Because you really, really needed to be reminded that this thing exists:

It’s called Telenoid, and apparently it came from outer space.

[ Impress ]

The 2015 SparkFun Autonomous Vehicle Challenge looks like it was a huge success:

According to the YouTube comments, that zippy yellow autonomous car (Minuteman) was using odometry plus a single-axis gyro (no GPS!) to make its way around the course at a ridiculously fast speed. Simple, but effective.

[ SparkFun AVC 2015 ]

After your autonomous car finishes racing around, it really should be able to park itself, shouldn’t it? Check out what’s possible with an Arduino Mega, an Android phone, and some off-the-shelf sensors:

Dimitris Platis ] via [ DIY Drones ]

“The good thing about robots is that they do what you tell them to do. And, the bad thing about robots is that they do what you tell them to do.” Fifty Thymio robots find different ways of making this point:

[ Thymio ]

Thanks Francesco!

Just because you can put a gun on a quadrotor doesn’t mean you should. In fact, you probably shouldn’t.

This is a wonderful example of how it’s not the robot’s fault that some fool made a flying gun: it’s the fool’s fault.

[ YouTube ]

For a robot that’s not wearing any clothes, Pepper certainly has a lot of opinions on fashion:

Also, I think the robot may have kiiinda called the human fat…?

[ RobotsLab ]

Sorry snakes, but if you don’t have a body made of wheels, you’re not as cool as this robot:

Suzumori Endo Lab ]

More snakes!

OC Robotics new mobile snake-arm robot. The 1.5m arm is mounted on an untethered, omnidirectional vehicle, giving it the freedom to explore complex structures that a conventional robot could not.

Yeah, uh, freaky.

[ OC Robotics ]

And finally, more WeRobot!

WeRobot 2015 Panel 6: “Unfair and Deceptive Robots”

WeRobot 2015 Panel 7: “The Presentation of the Machine in Everyday Life”

[ WeRobot 2015 ]

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

“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.

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

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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