Video Friday: Snake Monster, Crash-Proof Drone, and Usain Bot

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

6 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum’s digital innovation director.

Video Friday: Snake Monster, Crash-Proof Drone, and Usain Bot
What do you call a five-legged hexapod?
Image: CMU Biorobotics Lab via YouTube

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your slow-running Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next two months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

ARMS 2016 – May 9-13, 2016 – Singapore
National Manufacturing Week – May 11-13, 2016 – Sydney, Australia
ICRA 2016 – May 16-21, 2016 – Stockholm, Sweden
NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 18-20, 2016 – NASA KSC, Fla., USA
Skolkovo Robotics Conference – May 20, 2016 – Skolkovo, Russia
Innorobo 2016 – May 24-26, 2016 – Paris, France
RoboCity16 – May 26-27, 2016 – Madrid, Spain
RoboBusiness Europe – June 1-3, 2016 – Odense, Denmark
Dynamic Walking 2016 – June 4-7, 2016 – Holland, Mich., USA
IEEE RAS MRSSS 2016 – June 6-10, 2016 – Singapore
CR-HRI – June 6-10, 2016 – Orlando, Fla., USA
NASA SRRC Level 1 – June 6-11, 2016 – Worcester, Mass., USA
Field Robot Event – June 14-18, 2016 – Haßfurt, Germany
RSS 2016 – June 18-22, 2016 – Ann Arbor, Mich., USA
European Land Robot Trial – June 20-24, 2016 – Eggendorf, Austria
Automatica 2016 – June 21-25, 2016 – Munich, Germany
ISR 2016 – June 21-22, 2016 – Munich, Germany
ICROM 2016 – June 23-25, 2016 – Singapore
UK Robotics Week – June 25-1, 2016 – United Kingdom
Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics – June 25-28, 2016 – London, England
TAROS 2016 – June 28-30, 2016 – Sheffield, United Kingdom
RoboCup 2016 – June 30-4, 2016 – Leipzig, Germany
Amazon Picking Challenge – June 30-4, 2016 – Leipzig, Germany

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

Snake Monster (a hexapod built with snake robot parts) has gotten even more monstrous. And awesome.

A demonstration of mobile manipulation with “Snake Monster,” a hexapod robot built with modular actuators in the Biorobotics Lab, at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. Due to this robot’s modular architecture, it is simple to change hardware from a passive rubber foot to a grasping end effector. The resulting leg can then be used for both locomotion and manipulation.

[ CMU ]

Unless you are the best drone pilot on the planet, and maybe even if you are the best drone pilot on the planet, the only way to safely inspect complex infrastructure is with Flyability’s contact-safe drones. They’ve just announced a commercial product called Elios that can go anywhere and crash into anything and be totally fine:

You’ll have to ask Flyability if you want to know how much one of these costs, but we’re still hoping that sooner or later, they’ll come out with a consumer version that we can afford to play around with.

[ Flyability ]

Thanks Adrien!

The University of Edinburgh has only had their Valkyrie robot for a few months, but they’re already making a lot of progress with it:

[ University of Edinburgh ]

Robots don’t get much more dexterous than this, because humans don’t get much more dexterous than this, either:

RE2 just delivered one of these to the U.S. Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) for testing.

[ RE2 ]

Leka is an interactive and multi-sensory smart toy, offering children with special needs the ability to play fun and educational games that motivates social interactions, that increase motor, cognitive, and emotional skills, as well as stimulates autonomy.

Based on papers published in peer reviewed sources, Leka has been developed hand-in-hand with parents, therapists and caregivers, to aid in a variety of settings. From the office, to schools, to home, Leka is making therapy easier, more efficient, and more accessible.

[ Indiegogo ]

There are drones that can act as jogging partners, but that doesn’t seem fair at all, does it? Wheels are still a bit of a cheat, but not as bad as flying:

I like this robot too! It seems like it wouldn’t be that hard to build something like this yourself, although it would be cool if it could also match acceleration profiles as opposed to just ending up at the finish line at the right time.

[ PUMA ] via [ Fast Company ]

IHMC Robotics will be competing in the Powered Exoskeleton Race of the Cybathlon, in October 2016. We have just gotten our exoskeleton, Mina v2, working and ready for testing. Our pilot, Mark Daniel, has joined the IHMC team full time to help with the design and testing, as well as train for the Cybathlon

[ IHMC ]

Very lifelike gaze control of a seriously pissed off iCub:

Paper: “A Cartesian 6-DoF Gaze Controller for Humanoid Robots,” by A. Roncone, U. Pattacini, G. Metta, and L. Natale. Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS) 2016.

[ iCub ]

Jibo should start shipping to Indiegogo backers this fall, and here’s a demo-filled update from Cynthia Breazeal and Jibo CEO Steve Chambers. If you just want to see Jibo doing stuff, skip to 5:33 for the most entertaining part:

[ Jibo ]

The six finalists in the Kuka Innovation Awards 2016 demonstrated their projects at the Hannover Messe industrial technology trade show last month, and we were there to help with the judging. It was not easy. All the teams worked hard and presented excellent demos. After tallying the votes, Kuka announced the winner: Team CoSTAR from Johns Hopkins University.

See the other finalists and their demos here.

[ KUKA Innovation Award ]

WowWee is for some reason crowdfunding this “gaming and entertainment drone.” It’s notable for its low price (you can pledge $60 for one), as well as its localization technology, which uses a beacon that you place on the floor:

Lumi’s advanced flight controls are enabled through BeaconSense™ technology. Every Lumi comes with a separate beacon that acts as a core point of reference in space and is essentially a virtual leash for Lumi that tethers it to the beacon’s location. The beacon enables Lumi to understand where it is in space at all times, which works in tandem with programmed algorithms to always keep Lumi stable, so if you move the beacon – Lumi will follow.


[ Indiegogo ]

As Sphero reminds us, having an inspiring teacher can be one of the most influential things to happen in your entire life:

Thanks Gene.

Thanks Jaime.

[ Sphero ]

For those not familiar with macadamia yield trial work, macadamias fall to the ground when they are mature and from there they get picked up. Commercially this is usually done with “fingerwheel” type harvesters that have a gang of fingerwheels that entrap the nuts as they get run over and then extracts them into a transport system using combs. However while these machines are effective they are incapable of accurately stop-starting in order that tree-by-tree yields can be retrieved. Thus all research plots are harvested by hand which is expensive and hard work. There are hand push versions of fingerwheel type harvesters but they are only moderately effective and it is difficult to get them under the trees when the canopy skirt is low.

Solution: robots!

[ Hidden Valley Plantations ]

Thanks David!

Technically, this may not quite be a robot, but it’s certainly close enough for Video Friday:

As much as I hate to admit it, human-in-the-loop is still the best way to go with things like this.

[ CCFE ] via [ Gizmodo ]

Look out GummiArm!

Compliant, 3D printable, open source, and resistant to abuse from evil humans.

[ GummiArm ] via [ Trossen Robotics ]

I’m not sure if there is a “who can do the most epic aerial drone show” competition, but there should be, and this one is up there:

[ Sky Magic ] via [ Gizmodo ]

Turning recycling into a collaborative game with robots sounds like fun, sort of, if your idea of a game involves recyclables:

This might work best running through Mechanical Turk, and since you’re basically getting humans to classify images for you, if they keep this up long enough, the robots will probably get pretty good at doing it all on their own.

[ Jodone ] via [ Tech Review ]

From UCSD:

The sea urchin’s intricate mouth and teeth are the model for a claw-like device developed by a team of engineers and marine biologists at the University of California, San Diego to sample sediments on other planets, such as Mars. The researchers detail their work in a recent issue of the Journal of Visualized Experiments. Researchers scanned the mouth with various methods (microCT, etc.). They then created design files based on the scans and build their prototype with a 3D printer. They attached the claw to a remote-controlled rover and successfully tested it on beach sand and on sand resembling Martian soil. They envision a fleet of mini rovers that would be deployed to sample soil sediments and bring them back to a main rover.

[ UCSD ]

Thanks Ioana!

How’d the PISCES landing pad construction project do in its first test?

Welp, the pad should be good for ::one:: takeoff, at least.


Thanks Megan!

Kirstie Shepherd let us know about this beautifully illustrated tale of a scientist studying a band of feral robots on a distant planet:

A $45 pledge on Kickstarter will put you in line for a physical copy.

[ Kickstarter ]

Thanks Kirstie!

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