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Video Friday: Drone With Lidar, Robot Tai Chi, and Strange Android

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

5 min read

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum's Digital Innovation Director.

Near Earth Autonomy drone
Near Earth Autonomy drone carrying a lidar.
Photo: Evan Ackerman/IEEE Spectrum

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your laser-focused 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!):

RO-MAN 2016 – August 26-31, 2016 – New York, N.Y., USA
ECAI 2016 – August 29-2, 2016 – The Hague, Holland
NASA SRRC Level 2 – September 2-5, 2016 – Worcester, Mass., USA
ISyCoR 2016 – September 7-9, 2016 – Ostrava, Czech Republic
European Rover Challenge – September 10-13, 2016 – Podkarpackie, Poland
Gigaom Change – September 21-23, 2016 – Austin, Texas, USA
RoboBusiness – September 28-29, 2016 – San Jose, Calif., USA
ISER 2016 – October 3-6, 2016 – Tokyo, Japan

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

Near Earth Autonomy, a Pittsburgh-based robotics and aerospace company (and CMU spin-off), has discovered the secret to flying a drone autonomously around obstacles without GPS: use a massive hexcopter that can haul around a Velodyne lidar.

[ Near Earth Autonomy ]

Thanks Jackie!

R1 is a new “personal humanoid” platform from the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT).

IIT, which also developed HyQ, WALKMAN, and other robots, did a nice job with R1’s design, but we’re holding out until it starts doing the kind of chores that we’d like personal robots to do for us, like cleaning, cooking, babysitting...

[ IIT ]

I don’t know many real 3-year-olds who can do what iCub can do:

I don’t know many adults who could do it, either.

[ IIT ]

Hiroshi Ishiguro is the man who made a robot copy of himself. He’s also built some really straaaange robots like the Telenoid and the Elfoid. Ishiguro’s latest, uh, thing, is Alter. Its movements are pseudorandom, controlled by a central pattern generator receiving input from a variety of environmental sensors.

“Previous androids were made to look and feel as close to real human beings as possible by copying humans’ appearance and the way they speak,” said Ishiguro, who famously developed an android in his own image. “But even though it has a very mechanical appearance and doesn’t say anything, Alter makes you think as if it were living,” he said.

[ Intelligent Robotics Laboratory ] via [ Japan Times ]

Fotokite is looking really, really good:

[ Fotokite ]

Weiwei Wan from Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industry Science and Technology (AIST) writes:

“I am trying to compare the performance of single-arm and dual-arm robots in industry applications: do we really need a dual-arm robots? The goal was to reorient objects from an arbitrary pose to a given goal. You can do it with one arm using regrasp, or you could also do it using two arms and hand over to meet the requirements of manipulability. The conclusion was that the efficacy depends on object shapes (or the features to grasp). Dual-arm robots are not definitely better than single-arm ones.”

Here’s one more video taking a look at some of the failure cases, which we always like to see:

“Developing and Comparing Single-arm and Dual-arm Regrasp,” by Weiwei Wan and Kensuke Harada, was published earlier this year in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters. You can read it at the link below.

[ Paper ]

Thanks Weiwei!

Personally, I’d trust a robot to tattoo me more than I’d trust a human to do it:

But perhaps they should try using a co-bot instead of a massive industrial manipulator?

[ Appropriate Audiences ] via [ The Verge ]

It looks cozy when robots spin you a hammock, but if you leave them on while you’re sleeping, I assume they’ll ensnare you completely and then start demanding fancy new batteries:

The project Mobile Robotic Fabrication System for Filament Structures, developed by ITECH graduate Maria Yablonina, demonstrates a new production process for filament structures. It proposes multiple semi-autonomous wall climbing robots to distribute fiber filament, using any horizontal or vertical surface, or even existing architecture, to support the new structures. Compared to larger scale industrial robots that are limited by position and reach, these robots are enabled with movement systems and a collection of sensors that allow them to travel and interact accurately along typical ground, walls, roofs, and ceilings. One can imagine a fabrication process where an operator arrives to the scene with a suitcase housing all the necessary robots and materials to create a large structure. These agile mobile robotic systems move robotic fabrication processes beyond the constraints of the production hall, exposing vast urban and interior environments as potential fabrication sites.

[ University of Stuttgart ]

Looks like Adept’s Lynx has a new job at Tesla’s Gigafactory:

[ Adept ] via [ YouTube ]

From 3D Robotics’ Chris Anderson:

Using 3DR Solos and ROS to do play autonomous Pong. Each “paddle” is two Solos. The “ball” is the fifth.

[ DIY Drones ] via [ ROS News ]

With 14 different grip patterns and hand positions, the bebionic artificial hand is designed to handle almost anything that you need to do in an average day, from eating meals and carrying bags, to opening doors, switching on lights and typing.

Relatively affordable at $11,000.

[ Bebionic ]

The Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge takes place in 2017. Here’s some progress from KAIST:


A bit of a blast from the past but still impressive tech: Meka Robotics’ Dreamer, in residence at UT Austin.

[ HCRL ]

McGill Robotics will be sending a robotic rover to explore one of the last and most exotic frontiers on Earth: Europe.

[ McGill Robotics ] via [ ERC ]

This is probably two minutes too long of Sawyer making boxes, but it’s a slick little system:

[ Active8Robots ]

Student teams design autonomous, robotic boats to navigate and race through an aquatic obstacle course. The behaviors demonstrated by these boats mimic tasks that are being developed for coastal surveillance, port security and other types of oceanographic operations.

[ RoboBoat ]

After four years of awesomeness on Mars, here’s the latest Curiosity Rover Report from JPL:

[ MSL ]

PIBOT2 is a full size humanoid robot designed to autonomously pilot light aircraft. So far, it’s restricted to simulators, but it can handle everything by itself from start to finish, including the radio stuff (which is the hardest part of flying, besides the landing):

There’s a longer simulated flight (20 minutes from Gimpo to Incheon) that you can watch here.


Jonathan Hurst is one of the guys behind the ATRIAS series of robots, including MARLO. Here’s a recent TEDx presentation where he talks about why MARLO’s dynamic, slightly fall-prone approach to walking is so important to the future of robotics.

[ Agility Robotics ]

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