Video Friday: Boston Dynamics, Autonomous Drone, and Robot Drum Man

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

5 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum's Digital Innovation Director.

Boston Dynamics SpotMini
Photo: Boston Dynamics

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!):

International Symposium on Medical Robotics – March 1-3, 2018 – Atlanta, Ga., USA
HRI 2018 – March 5-8, 2018 – Chicago, Ill., USA
US National Robotics Week – April 7-17, 2018 – United States
Xconomy Robo Madness – April 12, 2018 – Bedford, Mass., USA
NASA Swarmathon – April 17-19, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA
RoboSoft 2018 – April 24-28, 2018 – Livorno, Italy
ICARSC 2018 – April 25-27, 2018 – Torres Vedras, Portugal
NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 14-18, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA
ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia

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

Awww, a SpotMini using its face-arm to help a buddy...adorable!

Now, it’s starting to get a bit frustrating that every new Boston Dynamics video makes the Internet blow up with OMG-ROBOTS-ARE-GOING-TO-KILL-US headlines and tweets. Perhaps Boston Dynamics could release some behind-the-scenes footage (or outtakes!) to show what’s going on here? There’s an appearance of autonomy, and if it’s actually autonomous, BD should say so, but if it’s remote controlled by a human, they should make that clear. A bit more context for these videos won’t be the end of the robopocalypse jokes but could be a start.

[ Boston Dynamics ]

Skydio has posted more vids about their incredible new autonomous drone. This getting started video gives a good overview of all the hardware and how to use the system, and then we have some extra uncut footage from a pair of R1s following a freerunner through the woods.

[ Skydio ]

Whoever has the job of putting precise volumes of liquid into syringes over and over should be very, very afraid of ABB’s YuMi.

[ ROSP Automation ]

In this video, we introduce experiment results of ODAR (omni-directional aerial robot) system with 8 rotors. The system can generate omni-directional force/torque which is enabled by design optimization for the rotor pose, and bi-directional thrust generation from each rotor. With this property, the ODAR system can obtain capabilities not possible with typical aerial manipulation systems.

[ INRoL ]

February 15-18, children and families visiting the LEGO World expo in Copenhagen, Denmark will have the chance to make their brick-building dreams take flight with a flock of interactive miniature drones developed by the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University in Canada in collaboration with the LEGO Group’s Creative Play Lab. The system allows children to arrange LEGO elements into a shape of their choice and watch as a group of miniature drones takes flight to mimic the shape and colour of their creation in mid-air. With the aid of tiny sensors and gyroscopes, the system also tracks when the children move, twist and bend their designs. The drones faithfully replicate any shape alterations as an in-air animation.

[ Queens University HML ]

These little Rummy Nose Tetras are best friends with EPFL’s FishBot:


I’ve probably said this before, but it’s worth saying again: Why isn’t panda the default look for Pepper?

This particular Panda Pepper proudly patrols Tokyo Metro’s Ginza Line Asakusa Station.

[ Robostart ]

Life with Cozmo is particularly trying if you’re a cat and your Cozmo has a superhero complex:

[ Life With Cozmo ]

Thanks David!

Most of this Yaskawa Germany event seems pretty dry, but skip to 2:35 to watch a giant drum solo from a dude attached to a moving robot arm.

[ Yaskawa ]

KUKA partner andyRobot (AKA Andy Flessas) has developed a plug-in for industry leading animation software, Autodesk Maya, that allows KUKA robots to be programmed by anyone who knows how to animate inside Maya. Simply by dragging the 3D model of the robot through space in the virtual world and setting keyframes, a robot program can be created.

Called Robot Animator, andyRobot’s Maya plug-in is aimed squarely at creative professionals, but could also find use in other less creative robot programming endeavors. The technology is enabled by KUKA’s EntertainTech, a piece of hardware and software that allows for the robot animation to be turned into a robot program and drive the robot.

[ andyRobot ]

The Winter Olympics are here, so you might as well go for the gold. In our version of curling, players shake Sphero from side to side to charge up their stone, with each beep adding distance. When you’re ready, tip the roll angle to lock in the distance, aim, and let it roll toward the house. The goal is to get your stone on the center of the house.

[ Sphero Edu ]

At Lockheed Martin, we believe the future of autonomy isn’t human-less. It’s human more. Whether optionally manned or unmanned, we’re realizing a future that keeps humans out of harm’s way, makes the world safer, and brings people home everywhere – every time.

[ Lockheed Martin ]

Mujin and Omron Adept have put together this heavily integrated warehouse demo:

[ Mujin ]

Here are a couple demos from European Robotics Week 2017, including cute little quadrupeds and a beverage serving robot, because you can never have too many of those.

[ ERW ]

Like I said, you can never have too many beverage serving robots.

And while we’re talking about HEBI Robotics, here’s a Valentine’s Day video from Igor:

[ HEBI Robotics ]

This week’s CMU RI Seminar is from Magnus Egerstedt from Georgia Tech, on “Long Duration Autonomy for Persistent Environmental Monitoring.”

By now, we have a fairly good understanding of how to design coordinated control strategies for making teams of mobile robots achieve geometric objectives in a distributed manner, such as assembling shapes or covering areas. But, the mapping from high-level tasks to geometric objectives is not well understood. In this talk, we investigate this topic in the context of persistent autonomy, i.e., we consider teams of robots, deployed in an environment over a sustained period of time, that can be recruited to perform a number of different tasks in a distributed, safe, and provably correct manner. This development will involve the composition of multiple barrier certificates for encoding the tasks and safety constraints, as well as a detour into ecology as a way of understanding how persistent environmental monitoring can be achieved by studying animals with low-energy life-styles, such as the three-toed sloth.

[ CMU RI ]

In this week’s episode of Robots in Depth, Per interviews Henrik Christensen from UCSD.

Henrik talks about how he got started in computer vision and how working with cameras on mobile platforms got him into robotics. We hear about him being part of early EU supported research projects and how that brought him to KTH in Stockholm and the Centre for Autonomous Systems. While at KTH, he worked on early autonomous vacuum cleaners together with Electrolux. This fits well with his desire to both do interesting research and to transform the results into useful applications in the real world.

Henrik also tells us how the European robotics network mailing list led to the creation of robotics roadmaps. Henrik and Per discuss that when it comes to talking about the robot revolution with the general public, Hollywood is our worst enemy, because the image they portray is usually completely incorrect. Henrik then shares his views on how the robot revolution will affect the labor market and the environment and also improve the life of the handicapped and elderly. It is a huge opportunity for all, and Per could not agree more.

[ Robots in Depth ]

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