Video Friday: Final Goodbye to Opportunity Rover, 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.

Spirit and Opportunity landed in 2004, and their mission was scheduled to last 90 days. Spirit survived for six years, and Opportunity operated until June 2018, when NASA lost communication with the rover after a severe Mars-wide dust storm. NASA official
Artist's concept of NASA's twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on the surface of Mars in 2004. Their mission was scheduled to last 90 days, but Spirit survived for six years, and Opportunity operated until June 2018, when communication was lost after a severe Mars-wide dust storm. This week, NASA officially ended the Mars Exploration Rovers mission.
Image: NASA

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 – Daegu, Korea
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
Energy Drone Coalition Summit – June 12-13, 2019 – Woodlands, Texas, USA

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

I have no idea what to even say about the Opportunity rover. I’m not sure that the amazing people at JPL do, either. But they’re trying, and this video is a sort of media reel put together by JPL with a mission overview at the beginning followed by some interviews and it’s very much worth watching. I remember being in high school and following along with the landing, and especially vivid is when the signal goes all wonky because the rover is bouncing around on the surface in its airbag cocoon. Re-watching that here gives me all the feels all over again.

This leaves the Curiosity rover as the only mobile robot currently on Mars, but the Curiosity-sized 2020 rover will be on the its way in a year or two:

[ JPL ]

Happy Valentine’s Day from Misty Robotics!

Pretty sure that Roomba was leaving a trail of rose petals for you to follow, Misty.

[ Misty Robotics ]

Thanks Jennifer!

Happy Valentine’s Day from Robotiq!

The first cobot, equipped with a Hand-E that perfectly fits its needs and enhances its appearance with its beautiful and ergonomic shape, grabs the lovely hippo and hands it to its partner-to-be. With a delicate touch, the cobot can feel the presence of its love interest through the plush doll. It waits until it’s ready to accept the present. The same sensation awakes the lover cobot and allows it to be seduced. The gift is finally accepted, and released with proper timing thanks to the sense of touch. Hand-E makes it possible for the two lovebirds to exchange the hippo without any scratch. They can then fall in love and perform their choreography.

[ Robotiq ]

Japan Airlines is testing out exoskeletons at Narita and Haneda airports, because lifting your overstuffed suitcase sure is backbreaking!

[ Atoun ]

Experience the best of ATX West in about 5 minutes, full of very very busy robots working hard while accomplishing absolutely nothing. Also, there’s an adorable little robotic monorail system.

Did anyone else see that big sign for Tippman? I thought they just made paintball guns.

[ Ryan Hickman ]

An international team of researchers has developed a perception system for soft robots inspired by the way humans process information about their own bodies in space and in relation to other objects and people. The researchers’ ultimate goal is to build a system that can predict a robot’s movements and internal state without relying on external sensors, much like humans do every day.

Researchers embedded soft strain sensors arbitrarily within the soft robotic finger, knowing that they would be responsive to a wide variety of motions, and used machine learning techniques to interpret the sensors’ signals. This allowed the team, which includes researchers from the Bioinspired Robotics and Design Lab at UC San Diego, to predict forces applied to, and movements of, the finger. This approach will enable researchers to develop models that can predict forces and deformations experienced by soft robotic systems as they move.

[ UCSD ]

Thanks Ioana!

The Guardian S multi-purpose inspection robot performs a first look inspection of a disaster scene. Optimized for unstructured and unpredictable environments, the robot is capable of accessing and maneuvering in tight spaces, and navigating uneven, challenging terrain. The Guardian S facilitates two-way, real-time video, voice and data communication, all from a safe distance.

[ Sarcos Robotics ]

DeTOP is an European research project coordinated by The BioRobotics Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna. The aim is to develop and clinically implement robotic, sensing and long-term interfacing technologies for the next-generation transradial prosthesis.

And hey look, it’s more that just a concept video, they actually have hardware!


Robots: here to do your dirty work.

That guy just sitting in the cab and (I assume) watching Netflix on his laptop is the robot job apocalypse in a nutshell, folks.

[ RSL ]

Sequence of typical retail logistics. Graphical recognition of different SKUs, localization using 3D data, and impedance-controlled handling using Robotic Materials’ SmartHand.

Also this is what I imagine every startup in Silicon Valley stocks in their break room: Soylent, ramen, diet Dr. Pepper, and Fruit Loops.

[ Robotic Materials ]

The ACFR team has demonstrated SwagBot autonomously spot spraying weeds on a grazing property near Marulan, New South Wales. SwagBot can be seen automatically detecting and spraying serrated tussock. This solution has the potential to significantly reduce the burden of ongoing weed management.

That really should be a laser cannon or a flamethrower or something.

[ ACFR ]

What’s the “Cobalt Robotics Story”? I think it’s pretty clear: co-founder Travis Deyle was a robotics blogger for a while and now runs a successful robotics company. So, there you go.

[ Cobalt Robotics ]

Near Earth Autonomy makes sensors and software to enable autonomy for things that fly, and this demo shows them detecting powerlines, which are one of the most annoying things that aerial robots have to deal with.

[ NEA ]

This flexible robot-based unit is based on the lightweight robot LBR iiwa and can be transported and put into operation within a very short time. The platform is meant as a production assistant, that can work safely around humans without safety fencing, making it suitable for spontaneous automation to alleviate bottlenecks.

[ Kuka ]

In February 2019, Betty the robot left ORI to live at Blenheim Palace for a week, where she interacted autonomously with the guests!

That’s quite a contrast, but I kind of like it.

[ ORI ]

If you really want to know what’s going on at Waymo, you won’t be able to do much better than a recent MIT lecture from Waymo principal scientist Drago Anguelov.

[ MIT ]

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