Video Friday: Festo's Bionic Soft Arm, and More

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

4 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum’s digital innovation director.

Festo BionicSoftArm
Photo: Festo

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!):

HRI 2019 – March 11-14, 2019 – Daegu, Korea
RoboSoft 2019 – April 14-18, 2019 – Seoul, Korea
NIST ARIAC Challenge – April 15-19, 2019 – Online
Nîmes Robotics Festival – May 17-19, 2019 – Nîmes, France
ICRA 2019 – May 20-24, 2019 – Montreal, Canada
2nd Annual Robotics Summit & Expo – June 4-6, 2019 – Boston, Mass., USA

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

Whether free and flexible movements or defined sequences, thanks to its modular design, the pneumatic lightweight robot can be used for numerous applications. In combination with various adaptive grippers, it can pick up and handle a wide variety of objects and shapes. At the same time, it is completely compliant and poses no danger to the user even in the event of a collision.

Festo ]

“Hey let’s build a window washing robot for tall buildings!” “Great idea! And can we give it a screen that has no other purpose than to make funny faces while it squeegees?” “OMG YES!”

Besides the face (which I want to have looking in my windows all the time), this robot is not as crazy as it looks, since it takes the place of human window washers without any additional infrastructure.

[ Robotstart ] via [ Impress ]

Very far away from here, a small robotic spacecraft landed on an asteroid and fired a projectile into it to collect a sample.

[ Hayabusa2 ]

Jianguo Zhao, whose robots we’ve written about several times over the years, started his own Adaptive Robotics Lab at Colorado State University. Here’s a look at the kind of things they’re working on.

[ Adaptive Robotics Lab ]

Poet of Code shares “AI, Ain’t I A Woman”—a spoken word piece that highlights the ways in which artificial intelligence can misinterpret the images of iconic black women: Oprah, Serena Williams, Michelle Obama, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, and Shirley Chisholm.

We need to do better.

[ ]

If bees need a season off, this robot has their fuzzy little backs.

Spring has not arrived here in Morgantown yet so we are using artificial plants for robotic pollination experiments. These flowers are very realistic so when the real flower is blooming, we should be ready! This is a fully autonomous sub-system test, decoupled from the robot motion base control. The full sequence of greenhouse inspection, mapping, parking location planning, and workspace pollination will happen soon!


This is one of the most potentially murderizing industrial robots I’ve ever seen.

The Kawasaki dual-arm SCARA robot, duAro1, mounts radial parts varying in size and shape on a substrate.

[ Kawasaki Robotics ]

Cabbage collection: Just one more job that robots are taking over.

Video footage taken in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, shows a camera-equipped, AI-guided robotic cabbage-gatherer developed by Ritsumeikan University, the Hokkaido Agricultural Research Center, farm machinery makers and other collaborators undergoing a trial held on March 2. Based on a human-steered cabbage gathering machine first sold in 2012, the AI-guided version is able to drive itself, locate and cut cabbages and refine its accuracy in doing so by analyzing data gathered by cameras mounted on board. The machine, to be priced at about 19 million yen ($169,700), can do the labor of six workers while being overseen by just one or two. The video footage was taken by Hiroshi Ono of The Asahi Shimbun.

[ YouTube ]

I’m still not sure what Misty will actually do, but this video is entitled “What does Misty Do?” So, that’s a good start.

[ Misty Robotics ]

The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute is developing a robot named ARMstrong to respond to nuclear accidents.


The Robotiq Wrist Camera is the only vision system specifically designed to perform industrial applications with Universal Robots. Teach new parts and detect features quickly to ensure repeatable picking.

[ Robotiq ]

“Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver’s show on HBO, spent 20 minutes tackling the topic of automation in the context of jobs. I went in with my eyebrows already raised, but they do a very thoughtful and accurate job, I think—much better than we’ve come to expect.

[ Last Week Tonight ]

TUM held a robotics symposium last year, and they’ve just posted some video of invited talks. They’re about 20 minutes each of lab overviews with plenty of video, and we’ve picked out three that we thought were interesting: Masayuki Inaba, Dario Floreano, and Sangbae Kim. The others are certainly worth watching as well.

[ Videos ] via [ TUM ]

This week’s CMU RI Seminar is from Robert J. Wood at Harvard, on “The Mechanical Side of Artificial Intelligence.”

Artificial Intelligence typically focuses on perception, learning, and control methods to enable autonomous robots to make and act on decisions in real environments. On the contrary, our research is focused on the design, mechanics, materials, and manufacturing of novel robot platforms that make the perception, control, or action easier or more robust for natural, unstructured, and often unpredictable environments. Key principles in this pursuit include bioinspired designs, smart materials for novel sensors and actuators, and the development of multi-scale, multi-material manufacturing methods. This talk will illustrate this philosophy by highlighting the creation of two unique classes of robots: soft-bodied autonomous robots and highly agile aerial and terrestrial robotic insects.

[ CMU RI ]

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