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Video Friday: Eight-Legged Robot, CMU's BallBot, and Rodney Brooks on AI

This is what happens when we skip a week of Video Friday

6 min read

Video Friday: Eight-Legged Robot, CMU's BallBot, and Rodney Brooks on AI
Photo: Chiba Institute of Technology/fuRo

You may have noticed that there was no Video Friday last week. This is because we flew out to California on Thursday (which is when we usually stay up all night putting videos together for you) to see what was up with Toyota. We figured that was kind of important, you know? But obviously we misjudged either the importance that some of you place on Video Friday, or just how horribly bored you get at the end of the week, because all we heard in California was “Hey, where’s Video Friday??”


The good news is that you’ve waited this long, and we’re going to make it up to you with a ridiculously huge number of videos.

Halluc is on my list of Top 10 Coolest Robots for its bizarre combination of design and functionality:

Halluc IIχ: The concept of Halluc II, model 2 of the Hallucigenia project, is a future vehicle that can co-exists with natural environment. It features a newly developed ultra-multi-motored system with 56 motors, which makes traveling on unpaved surfaces possible and eliminates the need for paving. It transforms into three modes: vehicle, insect, and animal mode. The fusion of humanoid robot technologies and automobile technologies realized the unprecedented mobility of Halluc II. Although Halluc II has been demonstrated worldwide, for example at DESIGN INDABA in South Africa, Ars Electronica in Australia and Miraikan in Japan, this is the world premiere of the newest creation of the Hallucigenia project, called Halluc IIχ.

[ fuRo ]

Proof (once again) that humans are doomed:

The third version of the Janken (rock-paper-scissors) robot with 100% winning rate has been developed. In this version, we incorporated the high-speed tracking technologies "1ms Auto Pan-Tilt" and "Lumipen 2" in order to extend a field of view of the high speed vision system. The inclusion of these technologies additionally enables the system to dynamically track the human hand and recognize its shape in high speed, regardless of where it moves, as well as improves the synchronization between the motion of the robot hand and that of the human hand. Using high-speed vision together with the high-speed actuation of the robot hand enables the robot to achieve a 100 % winning rate.

One hundred percent, huh? That’s only because this robot hasn’t experienced my special signature rock-paper-scissors move: baseball bat to the face followed by a run for the hills.

[ University of Tokyo ]

If you’ve ever been to any sort of robotics event (with the possible exception of FIRST), you’re well aware that there’s a pronounced lack of gender diversity (and every other kind of diversity) in the field. Melonee Wise, the CEO of Fetch Robotics, has managed to do pretty well, and here’s what her experience has been like:

Via [ Recode ]

Speaking of famous robotics luminaries, here’s Rod Brooks not explaining why elephants don’t play chess:

Hmm. Maybe it’s because they don’t have hands? Yeah, I got nothing.

[ Rethink Robotics ]

When we posted about that robot space hedgehog yesterday, we mentioned that the reason you saw a little yellow rubber duckie in some of the videos was because of the ICRA 2016 video contest. Here’s a little extra from the zero-g flights:

[ ICRA 2016 ]

Robots: can they blend?

[ ROS Industrial ]

I have no idea why it took this long to make a robotic football dummy:

At some point in a future Video Friday, I look forward to wondering why it took this long for all human football players to be replaced with robots.

Via [ Engadget ]

Hinamitetu has been busy for the last few weeks:

[ YouTube ]

I, for one, welcome our new painfully slow paper-airplane folding collaborative robot overlords:

[ ABB ]

This delightful Luxo Jr-inspired robotic lamp was created by roboticist Jochen Alt:

Lots more details on the build at the link below.

[ Make ]

Wiggly robotic landing gear? On my helicopter? It’s more likely than you think, thanks to DARPA:

DARPA recently conducted an experimental demonstration of Robotic Landing Gear. Replacing standard landing gear, the adaptive system consists of four articulated, jointed automated legs that are able to bend and fold up next to the helicopter’s fuselage while in flight. Each leg has an integrated force-sensitive contact sensor in its foot. During landing, each leg extends and uses the sensor to determine in real time the appropriate angle to assume to ensure that the helicopter stays level without risking the rotor touching the landing area.

Having the ability to land on and take off from angled, irregular and moving surfaces would greatly expand the effectiveness of helicopters across many military and national security missions. 

Robotic Landing Gear is being developed by the Georgia Institute of Technology with funding originally from DARPA’s Mission Adaptive Rotor (MAR) program, which concluded last year.


Nao walks in the snow, circa 2009:

[ YouTube ]

From the Robotics and Perception Group at the University of Zurich:

In this video, we demonstrate our flying 3D scanner. Our quadrotor flies autonomously over an area of interest using only its onboard sensors: namely, a single, down-looking camera and an inertial measurement unit. All flight-relevant computation is performed onboard, on a smartphone processor. No pilot, GPS, or motion-capture system is required. We stream a subset of the images down to a laptop computer, where we compute a dense 3D model of the environment. Our algorithms are so efficient that we can create these models in real-time. Therefore, our system has high potential for applications in which detailed information about an unknown environment is time critical, such as during search-and-rescue missions.

Read the paper here.

[ University of Zurich ]

Ball-balancing robots are just awesome. CMU has been developing theirs since 2004. The current version of the robot has a sensor head and arms too!

[ CMU ]

The U.K. FPV Drone Nationals Grand Final 2015 (the very first one) happened last month, and here’s what the final looked like:

RoboHub has more.

[ RoboHub ]

It is important to enable micro aerial vehicles to land and perch on different surfaces to save energy by cutting power to motors and to perform tasks such as persistent surveillance. In many cases, the best available surfaces may be vertical windows, walls, or inclined roof tops. In this paper, we present approaches and algorithms for aggressive maneuvering to enable perching of underactuated quadrotors on surfaces that are not horizontal. We show the design of a custom foot/gripper for perching on smooth surfaces. Then, we present control and planning algorithms for maneuvering to land on specified surfaces while satisfying constraints on actuation and sensing. Experimental results that include successful perching on vertical, glass surfaces validate the proposed techniques.

[ Justin Thomas ]

Need a new research platform? SentiBotics has a mobile manipulator for you to check out:

The robot does all kinds of things (the link below has all the details) and will run you about US $20,000.

[ SentiBotics ]

High-level control of mobile robots currently requires use of a personal computer and traditional graphical user interface in the vast majority of cases. Such interfaces are not natural and frequently poorly suited to interacting with robots when tasking the robot to perform very short interactions requiring only brief commands. This is a problem that is especially acute for persons with disabilities. New technologies, such as Google Glass provide a variety of high quality sensors and an unobtrusive display which allows users to have a powerful robot control interface with them at all times. In this paper we present a system which provides the basic elements required in order for a user to interact with a robot using Glass. We also informally evaluate Glass as an input device, and present several examples of applications that this interface enables.

[ OSU ]

Not much can withstand Last Rites:

It only managed bronze in RoboGames 2015, though, so we’re hoping they’ll post some additional matches from the finals.

[ RoboGames 2015 ]

Tastiest demo ever?

Don’t get me wrong, I like all the robots and beer demos, but sometimes you need something you can sink your teeth into instead.

[ Adept ]

A chance encounter proves fateful for 2 robots mining on a desolate planet.

I cried.

[ Vimeo ]

The world is a desolate, unforgiving place in this action sci-fi with a surprising amount of heart. We follow NO-A (Noah), as he attempts to rescue Aixa, the young woman that created him. In his desperate attempt to save her, he must face an unknown enemy force and fight to keep them both alive.

For heaven’s sake, can’t someone make one of these with a happy ending for the robot? Geez.

[ Vimeo ] via [ io9 ]

Hey, did you know that July 20 was the 39th anniversary of the Viking 1 landing on Mars? NASA Langley held a special seminar to celebrate, hosting many of the “Vikings,” the people who worked on the robot landers themselves nearly 40 years ago. It’s a an hour and a half or so, with a panel of Vikings at the end, so try and hang around for that.

[ NASA ]

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