Video Friday: Faceless Humanoid, Robot Inside Eyeball, and Marc Raibert on Robotic Progress

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' Atlas humanoid robot climbing stairs
Image: Boston Dynamics 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 two months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

Gigaom Change – September 21-23, 2016 – Austin, Texas, USA
RoboBusiness – September 28-29, 2016 – San Jose, Calif., USA
HFR 2016 – September 29-30, 2016 – Genoa, Italy
ISER 2016 – October 3-6, 2016 – Tokyo, Japan
Cybathlon Symposium – October 07, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
Cybathalon 2016 – October 08, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
Robotica 2016 Brazil – October 8-12, 2016 – Recife, Brazil
ROSCon 2016 – October 8-9, 2016 – Seoul, Korea
IROS 2016 – October 9-14, 2016 – Daejon, Korea
NASA SRC Qualifier – October 10-10, 2016 – Online
ICSR 2016 – November 1-3, 2016 – Kansas City, Kan., USA
Social Robots in Therapy and Education – November 2-4, 2016 – Barcelona, Spain
Distributed Autonomous Robotic Systems 2016 – November 7-9, 2016 – London, England

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

Boston Dynamics co-founder and president Marc Raibert was at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco this week, where he discussed a host of robot-related topics, including bioinspired design, autonomy, robot abuse, and life as part of Google. He also brought with him some amazing never-released footage of Spot, Spot Mini, and Atlas that you must watch now:

And we ALL want Spot Minis in our homes, Marc!

[ Disrupt SF ]

How weird is it that Dreamer looks almost as cute with NO FACE ON?

That’s how you know you’ve got a robot that’s adorable all the way through.

[ UT Austin ]

[Mark] did the slalom so many times that he started to get bored. Go figure, he’s walking for the first time in many years and already he’s bored. “Okay Mark, challenge accepted. Tomorrow you’re doing stairs.” Mark, who is paralyzed, is training for the Cybathlon. The Slalom is one of the six tasks. In this video, the overhead tether is only to catch Mark if he loses his balance. He is operating on battery power and controlling the exoskeleton with button presses with his right hand.

IHMC Robotics ]

The title of this video is “free children hands.” I pay a lot for my children hands, so I’m definitely interested.

Oh. Well, I guess that’s okay too.

Robotiq ]

I’m not sure that tackling a crater with a 45-degree slope would be a good idea for any rover, but Coyote III makes it look easy:


Despite widespread use in other industries, automation has made little progress in clothing manufacturing due to the difficulties robots face when trying to manipulate limp, flexible fabrics. Sewbo avoids these hurdles by temporarily stiffening fabrics, allowing off-the-shelf industrial robots to easily build garments from rigid cloth, just as if they were working with sheet metal. The fabric panels can be easily molded and welded before being permanently sewn together. The water-soluble stiffener is removed at the end of the manufacturing process with a simple rinse in hot water, leaving a soft, fully assembled piece of clothing. The stiffener can then be recovered for reuse.

Personally, I’d even be okay with cardboard clothing if I could tell people that it was made entirely by robots.

Sewbo ] via [ Engadget ]

For just $80,000, you could own this 1960s robotic spaceman that NASA could never quite get to work.

Just in time for Halloween!

Auction ] via [ PopSci ]

Props to Uber for getting its autonomous car taxi service off the ground, even if it does include humans:

My only general criticism at this point is that they seem to have approximately 500 lidars on there, which means that the car probably costs about the same as four years of tuition at CMU. Or, you know, at lot more than that.

[ CMU ]

Normally, my philosophy is that robots and eyeballs don’t mix. This is an exception.

Oxford ]

As it turns out, flying blood samples around in drones doesn’t somehow ruin them. Seems obvious, but these things have to be tested:

In their first study, published in PLOS ONE last July, the team collected several hundred blood samples from healthy volunteers. They drove the samples to a flight field an hour northwest of Baltimore, packed half of them into foam containers and flew them around in a drone for up to 40 minutes. The other samples sat. All specimens went back to the lab for 33 routine tests. The results were the same for each group, suggesting samples stay intact during drone flights.

[ NPR ] via [ DIY Drones ]

Tree cavity inspection, eh? Must have been all of that maple syrup:

With longer blades, I’m thinking this could also be good for the occasional light bush pruning.


Ready for outdoor action from ANYmal? I know I am!

Navigation in rough terrain requires an understanding of the environment. This work demonstrates the mapping capabilities of the quadrupedal robot ANYmal outdoors in a forest. For accurate scanning, the robot carries two rotating laser range sensors in the front and the back. The mapping is based on the fusion of the pose estimation of the robot (through inertial and kinematic measurements) and the distance measurements of the laser scanners.


If beer pong isn’t hard enough for you, what do you do? Build some robots:

I am also not very good at beer pong, but that works out nicely since my strategy is usually to lose as badly as possible.

[ SparkFun ]

A video team will be making a documentary about Megabots’ run-up to its battle with a Japanese mech:

The MegaBots team says they’ve “hired on an Emmy-nominated video production staff full time” and will be posting all videos on their YouTube and Facebook channels. They first episode will be released 28 September.

[ MegaBots ] via [ Engadget ]

Lockheed Martin wants you to know that they have lots of nice people doing important work on unmanned systems:

My favorite is the little yellow submarine because it has eyeballs painted on it. I feel like this should be mandatory for all robots.

[ Lockheed Martin ]

Mini Crusher is, sadly, not designed to crush Minis:

At this size it would only be able to crush a mini Mini.

[ NREC ]

It’s an extra super extended edition of CMU’s RI Seminar:

Supersizing Self-supervision: Learning to Grasp from 50K Tries and 700 Robot Hours, by Lerrel Pinto, and A Convex Polynomial Force-Motion Model for Planar Sliding: Identification and Application, by Jiaji Zhou.

[ CMU RI Seminar ]

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