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Video Friday: DARPA's LUKE Arm, Human Support Robot, and Starting a Robotics Company

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

6 min read

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum's Digital Innovation Director.

Photo: Mobius Bionics

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 two months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

ICAR 2017 – July 10-12, 2017 – Hong Kong
RSS 2017 – July 12-16, 2017 – Cambridge, Mass., USA
MARSS – July 17-21, 2017 – Montreal, Canada
Summer School on Soft Manipulation – July 17-21, 2017 – Lake Chiemsee, Germany
Living Machines Conference – July 25-28, 2017 – Stanford, Calif., USA
RoboCup 2017 – July 27-31, 2017 – Nagoya, Japan
IEEE CASE 2017 – August 20-23, 2017 – Xi’an, China
IEEE ICARM 2017 – August 27-31, 2017 – Hefei, China

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

Dean Kamen’s DEKA R&D firm, with support from DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program, designed the advanced prosthetic LUKE Arm to give amputees “dexterous arm and hand movement through a simple, intuitive control system.” The LUKE Arm, which stands for Life Under Kinetic Evolution but is also a reference to Luke Skywalker’s bionic hand, “allows users to control multiple joints simultaneously and provides a variety of grips and grip forces by means of wireless signals generated by sensors worn on the feet or via other easy-to-use controllers.” It received FDA approval in 2014, and will now be commercialized by Mobius Bionics of Manchester, N.H. 

On Friday, June 30th, at a ceremony at the Manhattan campus of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ New York Harbor Health Care System, two veterans living with arm amputations became the first recipients of a new generation of prosthetic limb that promises them unprecedented, near-natural arm and hand motion. The modular, battery-powered arms, designed and developed by DEKA Research and Development Corporation for DARPA, represent the most significant advance in upper extremity prosthetics in more than a century.

Mobius Bionics ] and DARPA ]

On September 16, 2008, the life of U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Romulo "Romy" Camargo changed. During a humanitarian mission for his third deployment in Afghanistan, Romy’s team was ambushed and he was struck by a bullet. At that moment, he unwittingly began a new life of limited mobility — he had just become paralyzed from the shoulders down. With the idea of ’Mobility for All’ being a key driving principle behind Toyota, Romy’s story has provided a perfect opportunity to demonstrate just what that means. To Toyota, mobility goes beyond selling automobiles — it means helping people navigate their world and live the life they want to live, regardless of their circumstances. Toyota is dedicated to developing ways to utilize advanced technology to improve quality of life, especially among people with limited mobility.

Nowhere is this principle more evident than in Toyota’s Technology for Human Support division. And with the help of Romy and his family, Toyota was able to carry out North America’s first in-home trial of the amazing Human Support Robot (HSR). While the HSR is still in an experimental research phase, and not destined for mass production anytime soon, its unique design and abilities immediately proved useful in assisting Romy with everyday activities like opening doors and bringing food from the kitchen, helping him to regain some independence and live more freely.

[ Toyota ]

Nick Kohut from Dash Robotics talks to Udacity about learning robotics and starting a hardware-based robotics company. It’s a good interview, and worth your time.

Udacity ] via [ Robohub ]

Spacecraft equipped with gecko-inspired dry adhesive grippers can dynamically grasp objects having a wide variety of featureless surfaces. In this paper we propose an optimization-based control strategy to exploit the dynamic robustness of such grippers for the task of grasping a free-floating, spinning object.

More info in the paper at the link below.

Paper ] via [ Stanford ]

EMYS knows the best way to teach kids a new language: bribery!

[ EMYS ]

Thanks Jan!

Cozmo plus Apple ARKit makes for an awfully cute augmented reality fireworks show:

[ Anki ]

In June and July 2017, the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics conducted tests on the volcano Etna in Sicily under the Helmholtz Alliance Robex. In this video is a part of the moon analog mission to see. Within the scope of the experiment, the rover moves to the lunar lander and loosens the seismic instrument from the screw joint with the robot arm. Then, the seismic instrument is placed in a holder on the rover, and the rover thus moves to a predetermined point to place the seismometer on the ground. The seimometer then makes a measurement, is raised again, and is routed autonomously from the robot to a further point of the crossmember and set down there.

[ DLR ]

We are excited to show off a simulation of a Prius in Mcity using ROS Kinetic and Gazebo 8. ROS enabled the simulation to be developed faster by using existing software and libraries. The vehicle’s throttle, brake, steering, and transmission are controlled by publishing to a ROS topic. All sensor data is published using ROS, and can be visualized with RViz.

We leveraged Gazebo’s capabilities to incorporate existing models and sensors. The world contains a new model of Mcity and a freeway interchange. There are also models from the gazebo models repository including dumpsters, traffic cones, and a gas station. On the vehicle itself there is a 16 beam lidar on the roof, 8 ultrasonic sensors, 4 cameras, and 2 planar lidar.

[ OSRF ]

Robot maker Hinamitetu outdoes himself again with a vault robot:

At this rate, the Olympics are going to need to invent some extra gymnastics events just to give Hinamitetu something to do.

[ Hinamitetu ]

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is experimenting with a hybrid unmanned aerial vehicle that transforms in flight and gives Soldiers an advantage on the battlefield of the future. Weighing in at just over half a pound, this UAV tilts its rotors to go from hovering like a helicopter to speeding along like a sleek airplane. The design has many efficiencies, but also provides many challenges to its creator, Dr. Steve Nogar, a postdoctoral researcher with the lab’s Vehicle Technology Directorate. With this hybrid UAV, transforming from hovering to horizontal flight offers speed, agility and mission flexibility.


ARIAC is a simulation-based competition designed to promote agility in industrial robot systems by utilizing the latest advances in artificial intelligence and robot planning. The goal is to enable industrial robots on the shop floors to be more productive, more autonomous, and more responsive to the needs of shop floor workers. The virtual nature of the competition enabled participation of teams affiliated with companies and research institutions from across three continents. While autonomously completing pick-and-place kit assembly tasks, teams were presented with various agility challenges developed based on input from industry representatives. These challenges include failing suction grippers, notification of faulty parts, and reception of high-priority orders that would prompt teams to decide whether or not to reuse existing in-progress kits.

Teams had control over their system’s suite of sensors positioned throughout the workcell, made up of laser scanners, intelligent vision sensors, quality control sensors and interruptible photoelectric break-beams. Each team participating in the finals chose a unique sensor configuration with varying associated costs and impact on the team’s strategy.

[ OSRF ]

NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center has a heritage of developmental and operational experience with unmanned aircraft systems. Spanning from 1969 to the present, this 4-minute 48-second fast-paced visual survey produced in 2013 captures nearly a half-century of innovation in environmental and aeronautical research, showing the scope, scale, and variety of unmanned and remotely piloted vehicle projects flown at the center.

We got closer looks and some of these aircraft (and others not in the video) when we visited NASA Dryden a few years ago, but here are more videos that NASA just posted of some of their old-school flying robots:

This 57-second movie clip taken August 12, 2005 shows tests of NASA’s Autonomous Soaring Project with comments by Project Engineer Michael Allen. A series of research flights at NASA’s Dryden (now Armstrong) Flight Research Center in the summer of 2005 validated the premise that using thermal lift could significantly extend the range and endurance of small unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) without a corresponding increase in fuel requirements.

This 1-minute, 53-second video taken on October 1, 2011 shows the NASA Dryden (now Armstrong) Flight Research Center’s Dryden Remotely Operated Integrated Drone (DROID) sub-scale test bed aircraft is moving up to the flight test big leagues! The center’s Automatic Collision Avoidance Technology team conducted test flights of new software architecture on the radio-controlled large model aircraft to demonstrate that even the simplest flight systems may benefit from Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance Software (GCAS).

This video from June 7, 2003 shows the Helios Prototype solar-powered aircraft taking off on a checkout flight over Kauai, Hawaii.

[ NASA Dryden ]

On June 15th, WeRobotics co-founder Patrick Meier gave a talk at the 2017 National Geographic Explorer’s Festival. Patrick spoke about the activities ongoing at each of the Flying Labs along with their future plans.

[ WeRobotics ]

On July 4, 1997, NASA’s Mars Pathfinder lander and Sojourner rover successfully landed on the Red Planet utilizing a revolutionary airbag landing system. This special 20th anniversary show chronicles the stories and the people behind the groundbreaking mission that jump-started 20 years of continuous presence at Mars. Guests include: Former NASA Administrator Dan Goldin, former JPL Directors Ed Stone and Charles Elachi, JPL Director Michael Watkins and Pathfinder mission team members Jennifer Trosper and Brian Muirhead. Recorded June 27, 2017 at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; aired on NASA TV on July 4, 2017.

[ JPL ]

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