Video Friday: Watch Boston Dynamics' Spot Robots Pull a Truck

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

5 min read

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum's Digital Innovation Director.

Boston Dynamics' Spot robots pull a truck
A pack of Boston Dynamics' Spot robots pull a truck.
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!):

Nîmes Robotics Festival – May 17-19, 2019 – Nîmes, France
Isolierband Robotics Competition – May 19, 2019 – Israel
ICRA 2019 – May 20-24, 2019 – Montreal, Canada
2nd Annual Robotics Summit & Expo – June 4-6, 2019 – Boston, Mass., USA
ICUAS 2019 – June 11-14, 2019 – Atlanta, Ga., USA
Energy Drone Coalition Summit – June 12-13, 2019 – Woodlands, Texas, USA
Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics – June 23-26, 2019 – London, U.K.
ETH Robotics Summer School – June 27-1, 2019 – Zurich, Switzerland

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

It only takes 10 Spotpower (SP) to haul a truck across the Boston Dynamics parking lot (~1 degree uphill, truck in neutral). These Spot robots are coming off the production line now and will be available for a range of applications soon.

Boston Dynamics is pushing forward with its plans to produce lots of Spots, and CEO Marc Raibert recently told us that they have about 40 beta Spots going through testing, which we can see includes some seriously strenuous work. (The robots used to be called SpotMini but the company is now calling them Spot.) Also, I’m very curious about how 10 Spots are coordinated like this. Are they all just given a simultaneous walk forward command, or is there a more sophisticated form of control? And does it really take 10 SpotMinis to pull the truck, or could you do it with fewer if you wanted to? We should find out for sure later this year, when Boston Dynamics sends us a Spot for review.

We’re just going to keep on saying that assuming that it will happen.

[ Boston Dynamics ]

Astrobee is a free-flying robot system for the International Space Station. Designed and built at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, the system will be used to help scientists and engineers develop and test technologies for use in zero gravity. These robots are designed to assist astronauts in Earth’s orbit and support sustained human exploration to the moon, Mars, or other deep-space destinations.

[ NASA ]

A new learning system developed by MIT researchers improves robots’ abilities to mold materials into target shapes and make predictions about interacting with solid objects and liquids. The system, known as a learning-based particle simulator, could give industrial robots a more refined touch—and it may have fun applications in personal robotics, such as modeling clay shapes or rolling sticky rice for sushi.

Whatever that green stuff is, I want to squish it SO BAD.

[ MIT ]

Robots have long been helping to spread love and bring people together. Adorable. Omedetou gozaimasu to the couple! <3

[ HSR ]

If a Ghost Robotics quadruped follows you home, you’re officially allowed to keep it.

[ Ghost Robotics ]

Uh oh.

[ Misty Robotics ]

Squishy Robotics is working on commercializing those tensegrity robots that NASA Ames has been working on for like a decade. They’re eminently droppable, and can easily survive things like this:

[ Squishy Robotics ]

Roboy employs a revolutionary new framework for agile hardware development combined with a vision-based approach to advance along with its roadmap. Increasingly challenging visions pave the way towards reaching the large vision: A robot as good as the human body. The goal for the WS18-19 was to make Roboy drive his rickshaw! Roboy’s team worked tirelessly to make this reality! In only one semester, the Roboy team managed to turn Roboy 2.0 into an autonomously driving humanoid robot!

[ Roboy ]

Stéphane Caron from LIRMM on France writes: “To interact safely with humans, HRP-4 was designed to be lightweight and low-power, but ‘not for stair climbing’ according to its manufacturer. The limitation was actually mainly software, and we could overcome it by developing a new walking stabilizer for the robot (which we made open source). In this video, HRP-4 climbs a flight of 18.5 cm high steps.” Very cool!

LIRMM has HRP-4 doing some other interesting stuff as well:

I was so sure that HRP-4 was getting ready to punch that printer in the face and now I’m just disappointed.


Thanks, Stéphane!

Juan wrote in to share this 3D-printed, single-degree-of-freedom peristaltic motion robot he’s been working on:

[ University of Calgary ]

Thanks, Juan!

Honeywell has been using a variety of Fetch robots to take over from humans, who would rather be doing more interesting things, thank you very much.

[ Honeywell ]

Otto Motors has a new fully autonomous forklift, which is a shame, because forklifts are a lot of fun to drive.

[ Otto Motors ]

This video gives an overview on the humanoid robot LOLA and the motion-planning procedure required for biped walking. It shows the kinematic and the collision model of the robot and gives some insight to the planned trajectories of the ZMP and the feet. In addition, several experiments with LOLA from the year 2017 are shown.

[ TUM ]

Got lonely fish? Here’s a robot companion for them!

Available in salmon or tuna flavored. About $580 each.

[ MIRO ] via [ Robotstart ]

FANUC America is proud to introduce Authorized System Integrator Waste Robotics, developers of robotic systems for sorting recyclables. Waste Robotics partners with FANUC to develop WAR—Waste Autonomous Recycling technology. Waste Robotics developed WAR software to allow multisensor scanning and real-time artificial intelligence analysis to perform waste chemical composition and shape recognition. WAR computes grappling strategies and picking sequences in real time to perform robotic extraction.

[ Waste Robotics ]

And now, Yaskawa will explain its cobots through the magic of interpretive dance! I only wish I was kidding.

[ Motoman ]

The RoboMaster High School Summer Camp is a platform tailored for high school students to improve their robotics skills and gain hands-on experience. DJI will recruit the most advanced high school students in the field of robotics, providing them with systematic training and professional mentors, and challenging them with cutting-edge research and development projects. Students will also attend university lab tours, lectures from professors in the robotics field, and watch the RoboMaster Competition live.

This happens in Shenzhen, and will cost you about $1,000.

[ DJI RoboMaster ]

Meet Professor Choset and learn more about the Biorobotics Lab and see robots from spinoff companies Medrobotics, Hebi, and Bito in this video produced to celebrate him winning the 2019 Joseph Engelberger Award for Robotics Education.

[ CMU ]

Mobots, roll out!

[ Mobot ]

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