Ibuki child android robot
Image: JST ERATO Ishiguro Symbiotic Human-Robot Interaction Project

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!):

CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – [Online Conference]
ICUAS 2020 – September 1-4, 2020 – Athens, Greece
ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan
AUVSI EXPONENTIAL 2020 – October 5-8, 2020 – [Online Conference]
IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – Las Vegas, Nev., USA
CYBATHLON 2020 – November 13-14, 2020 – [Online Event]
ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colo., USA

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

We first met Ibuki, Hiroshi Ishiguro’s latest humanoid robot, a couple of years ago. A recent video shows how Ishiguro and his team are teaching the robot to express its emotional state through gait and body posture while moving.

This paper presents a subjective evaluation of the emotions of a wheeled mobile humanoid robot expressing emotions during movement by replicating human gait-induced upper body motion. For this purpose, we proposed the robot equipped with a vertical oscillation mechanism that generates such motion by focusing on human center-of-mass trajectory. In the experiment, participants watched videos of the robot’s different emotional gait-induced upper body motions, and assess the type of emotion shown, and their confidence level in their answer.

Hiroshi Ishiguro Lab ] via [ RobotStart ]

ICYMI: This is a zinc-air battery made partly of Kevlar that can be used to support weight, not just add to it.

Like biological fat reserves store energy in animals, a new rechargeable zinc battery integrates into the structure of a robot to provide much more energy, a team led by the University of Michigan has shown.

The new battery works by passing hydroxide ions between a zinc electrode and the air side through an electrolyte membrane. That membrane is partly a network of aramid nanofibers—the carbon-based fibers found in Kevlar vests—and a new water-based polymer gel. The gel helps shuttle the hydroxide ions between the electrodes. Made with cheap, abundant and largely nontoxic materials, the battery is more environmentally friendly than those currently in use. The gel and aramid nanofibers will not catch fire if the battery is damaged, unlike the flammable electrolyte in lithium ion batteries. The aramid nanofibers could be upcycled from retired body armor.

[ University of Michigan ]

In what they say is the first large-scale study of the interactions between sound and robotic action, researchers at CMU’s Robotics Institute found that sounds could help a robot differentiate between objects, such as a metal screwdriver and a metal wrench. Hearing also could help robots determine what type of action caused a sound and help them use sounds to predict the physical properties of new objects.

[ CMU ]

Captured on Aug. 11 during the second rehearsal of the OSIRIS-REx mission’s sample collection event, this series of images shows the SamCam imager’s field of view as the NASA spacecraft approaches asteroid Bennu’s surface. The rehearsal brought the spacecraft through the first three maneuvers of the sampling sequence to a point approximately 131 feet (40 meters) above the surface, after which the spacecraft performed a back-away burn.

These images were captured over a 13.5-minute period. The imaging sequence begins at approximately 420 feet (128 meters) above the surface – before the spacecraft executes the “Checkpoint” maneuver – and runs through to the “Matchpoint” maneuver, with the last image taken approximately 144 feet (44 meters) above the surface of Bennu.

[ NASA ]

The DARPA AlphaDogfight Trials Final Event took place yesterday; the livestream is like 5 hours long, but you can skip ahead to 4:39 ish to see the AI winner take on a human F-16 pilot in simulation.

Some things to keep in mind about the result: The AI had perfect situational knowledge while the human pilot had to use eyeballs, and in particular, the AI did very well at lining up its (virtual) gun with the human during fast passing maneuvers, which is the sort of thing that autonomous systems excel at but is not necessarily reflective of better strategy.

[ DARPA ]

Coming soon from Clearpath Robotics!

[ Clearpath ]

This video introduces Preferred Networks’ Hand type A, a tendon-driven robot gripper with passively switchable underactuated surface.

[ Preferred Networks ]

CYBATHLON 2020 will take place on 13 – 14 November 2020 – at the teams’ home bases. They will set up their infrastructure for the competition and film their races. Instead of starting directly next to each other, the pilots will start individually and under the supervision of CYBATHLON officials. From Zurich, the competitions will be broadcast through a new platform in a unique live programme.

[ Cybathlon ]

In this project, we consider the task of autonomous car racing in the top-selling car racing game Gran Turismo Sport. Gran Turismo Sport is known for its detailed physics simulation of various cars and tracks. Our approach makes use of maximum-entropy deep reinforcement learning and a new reward design to train a sensorimotor policy to complete a given race track as fast as possible. We evaluate our approach in three different time trial settings with different cars and tracks. Our results show that the obtained controllers not only beat the built-in non-player character of Gran Turismo Sport, but also outperform the fastest known times in a dataset of personal best lap times of over 50,000 human drivers.

[ UZH ]

With the help of the software pitasc from Fraunhofer IPA, an assembly task is no longer programmed point by point, but workpiece-related. Thus, pitasc adapts the assembly process itself for new product variants with the help of updated parameters.

[ Fraunhofer ]

In this video, a multi-material robot simulator is used to design a shape-changing robot, which is then transferred to physical hardware. The simulated and real robots can use shape change to switch between rolling gaits and inchworm gaits, to locomote in multiple environments.

[ Yale ]

This work presents a novel loco-manipulation control framework for the execution of complex tasks with kinodynamic constraints using mobile manipulators. As a representative example, we consider the handling and re-positioning of pallet jacks in unstructured environments. While these results reveal with a proof-of- concept the effectiveness of the proposed framework, they also demonstrate the high potential of mobile manipulators for relieving human workers from such repetitive and labor intensive tasks. We believe that this extended functionality can contribute to increasing the usability of mobile manipulators in different application scenarios.

[ Paper ] via [ IIT ]

I don’t know why this dinosaur ice cream serving robot needs to blow smoke out of its nose, but I like it.

[ Connected Robotics ] via [ RobotStart ]

Guardian S remote visual inspection and surveillance robots make laying cable runs in confined or hard to reach spaces easy. With advanced maneuverability and the ability to climb vertical, ferrous surfaces, the robot reaches areas that are not always easily accessible.

[ Sarcos ]

Looks like the company that bought Anki is working on an add-on to let cars charge while they drive.

[ Digital Dream Labs ]

Chris Atkeson gives a brief talk for the CMU Robotics Institute orientation.

[ CMU RI ]

A UofT Robotics Seminar, featuring Russ Tedrake from MIT and TRI on “Feedback Control for Manipulation.”

Control theory has an answer for just about everything, but seems to fall short when it comes to closing a feedback loop using a camera, dealing with the dynamics of contact, and reasoning about robustness over the distribution of tasks one might find in the kitchen. Recent examples from RL and imitation learning demonstrate great promise, but don’t leverage the rigorous tools from systems theory. I’d like to discuss why, and describe some recent results of closing feedback loops from pixels for “category-level” robot manipulation.

[ UofT ]

The Conversation (0)

How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
LightGreen

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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