The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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Meltin's dexterous teleloperated humanoid robot
Image: Meltin 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!):

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
RSS 2018 – June 26-30, 2018 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA
Ubiquitous Robots 2018 – June 27-30, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii
MARSS 2018 – July 4-8, 2018 – Nagoya, Japan
AIM 2018 – July 9-12, 2018 – Auckland, New Zealand

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

MELTANT-α is a wire-driven teleoperated humanoid torso with very impressive dexterity:

If you thought the “vision” video was a bit much, the capabilities video is less singing and more interesting:

[ Meltin ]

Self-driving cars are really here when you can comfortably take a nap in one:

Can you tip, though?

[ Waymo ]

Sebastian Thrun’s self-flying car company, Cora, has a passenger drone that may be somewhat less terrible than most other passenger drones:

I like Cora primarily because it has wings that can generate lift even if the electrical systems or software systems fail. I’m still not sold on the idea of you not needing a pilot’s license to be in one, but this design does seem significantly more survivable than most.

Cora ]

We look in to the near future, where BostonDynamic’s SpotMini has taken over Earth, and all signs of life has been eradicated. Seen in herds, the SpotMini scavenges what it can find in the, now, uninhabitable wasteland we once called Earth.


We present the Robotic Modeling Assistant (RoMA), an interactive fabrication system providing a fast, precise, hands-on and in-situ modeling experience with an augmented reality CAD editor and a robotic arm 3D printer.

As a designer creates a new model using RoMA AR CAD editor, features are constructed concurrently by a 3D printing robotic arm sharing the same design volume. The partially printed physical model then serves as a tangible reference for the designer as she adds new elements to her design. With RoMA, users can integrate real-world constraints into a design rapidly, allowing them to create well-proportioned tangible artifacts. Users can even directly design on and around an existing object, and extending the artifact by in-situ fabrication.


This video demonstrates the use of an autonomous docking station for the quadrupedal robot ANYmal. The docking station can be used to extend the robot’s operational time in areas where human interaction is not possible.

ANYmal ]

Fotis Dimeas from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki writes: 

I would like to let you know of our work that enables quick and easy programming of a robot in repetitive industrial tasks, through kinesthetic demonstration from the operator. In the video you can see the programming of a pick and place task in less than a minute. The robot learns the task cycle with the assistance of haptic cues and progressively transitions from manual into autonomous operation using a novel variable stiffness control strategy and assistive virtual fixtures. The training process, requires a small amount of iterations, decreasing dramatically the typical robotic programming time. The programming does not require any interaction with a user interface or pre-programming of the task sequence.

This work was presented at the 10th International Workshop on Human-Friendly Robotics (HFR 2017).


Thanks, Fotis!

Highlights from Team Homer at UniKoblenz in the European Robotics League:

[ Team Homer ]

In February 2018, the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF) in partnership with international research organisations including Oman Astronomical Society, conducts a four-weeks mars simulation mission in the Arabian desert in Oman. This video is about the autonomous rover called Husky, its mission as well as its simulation experiment on the field with the analog astronauts on Mars.

[ AMADEE-18 ] via [ Clearpath ]

We present a communication paradigm using a context-aware mixed reality approach for instructing human workers when collaborating with robots. The main objective of this approach is to utilize the physical work environment as a canvas to communicate task-related instructions and robot intentions in the form of visual cues. A vision-based object tracking algorithm is used to precisely determine the pose and state of physical objects in and around the workspace. A projection mapping technique is used to overlay visual cues on the tracked objects and the workspace. Simultaneous tracking and projection onto objects enable the system to provide just-in-time instructions for carrying out a procedural task. Additionally, the system can also inform and warn humans about the intentions of the robot and safety of the workspace.

[ Paper ] via [ ASU Interactive Robotics Lab ]

Robot-assisted surgery hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention, but good to see KUKA focusing on it at least a little bit.

[ KUKA Medical ]

ROBOTIS has TB3 plug-ins for Gazebo that’ll let you simulate a TB3 Burger, Waffle, or Waffle Pi:

[ TB3 ]

The ETH-MAV Team competed in the MBZIRC 2017 drone challenge, and the results weren’t too shabby:

[ Paper ]

Discovery Canada takes a look at Kuka’s dancing robot arms, which puts robot arms on your robot arms.

Seen at SXSW, I believe.

[ Kuka ] via [ Daily Planet ]

I think this was also at SXSW: a gravity-compensating drone backpack.

Lunavity is a system designed to augment the human capability of jumping. An attachable multi-rotor elevates the user during the movement, enabling them to leap higher and further. In the future, where drones are widely used for delivery and/or transportation, it can be applied to augment our mobility temporarily.

[ Lunavity ]

Upper-limb prosthetic research is the typical multi-disciplinary research field–we must involve physicians, material scientists, mechatronic engineers, mathematicians and rehabilitation experts. A tight cooperation is laso necessary among the key players outside academia: manufacturers of prosthetic hardware and bio-compatible liners, orthopaedic and rehabilitation facilities. Most importantly, patients need to be involved since the beginning, as soon as possible after the trauma, and they must be followed for weeks and months during the rehabilitation process.

The Prosthetics Laboratory of the DLR, Adaptive Bio-Interfaces Group, provides a research environment in which all aspects of the problem can be tackled, solutions devised, and systems tested to various degrees of “reality”–in the very end, upper-limb prosthetics research must leave the laboratory and be tested by the patients in real life: at home, outside, at work, in social life.

[ DLR ]

Cynthia Breazeal, MIT associate professor of media arts and sciences, describes her research on social and emotional intelligence for human-AI collaboration at the launch event for the MIT Intelligence Quest, an Institute-wide initiative on human and machine intelligence research, its applications, and its bearing on society.

[ MIT iQ ]

Péter Fankhauser from Anybotics and the Robotic Systems Lab at ETHZ has made lots of excellent robot videos, and he’s put together a talk about how you too can make your robot vids like a pro.

[ ETHZ ]

In this week’s episode of Robots in Depth, Per interviews Harsha Prahlad, co-founder and CTO of Grabit.

Harsha Prahlad talks about his novel gripper for soft goods manufacturing and how he got into robotics via the aerospace industry. We get to hear about how the electrostatics gripper he is developing will be able to grip objects that previously have been considered hard or impossible to grip.

This technology is highly relevant in clothing and soft goods manufacturing. It will also be significant in other contexts, for instance in automotive when carbon fiber structures are introduced to make vehicles more energy efficient. Another interesting area is logistics, were a conveyor belt made from the Grabits gripper can be used to improve item transport, sort items and delayer stacked items.

[ Robots in Depth ]

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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