Video Friday: IROS 2013, Swarming Quadrotors, and Baxter Tries Not to Stab You

We take a (brief) break from attending sessions and workshops and expos in Tokyo to bring you Video Friday

4 min read

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum's Digital Innovation Director.

Video Friday: IROS 2013, Swarming Quadrotors, and Baxter Tries Not to Stab You

IROS and iREX have been spectacular, but we've barely had time to sit down, much less write articles. And there's still more to see: IROS wrapped up on Thursday, but we're heading back for the last full day of iREX tomorrow. So, expect to see a lot more IROS news from us next week, but for now, we'll get you caught up on (non-IROS) robot news from this week, and we'll throw in some new IROS videos for good measure.

KMel Robotics (the guys who made this happen) have unleashed their swarming quadrotors in Vancouver on behalf of Lexus. Here's what they put together, and keep in mind that none of this is CGI, it's all real robots  CGI was used to enhance some parts of the film. [Oops, looks like we got carried away. KMel clarifies that CGI was used, but they say we'll have to guess what parts are real and what parts are CGI.] 

And here's the making-of video:

[ KMel Robotics ]

Thanks Ben!



Thanks to some clever new training methods, Baxter can be taught to not immediately stab you if you give it a knife for some bizarre reason:

Look, this is a good idea, I get it, but maybe we can all just come to an agreement that we'd be better off not giving robots knives at all?

[ Cornell ]



Relive the Jeopardy victory of IBM's Watson, with some extra commentary from IBM researchers who were in the audience watching as it happened:

[ Watson ]



We've been following Modular Robotics and their Cubelets modular robotic blocks for years, and we're huge fans. So, we were super excited to see a new Kickstarter introducing an entirely new way to build robots, called MOSS. There's no wiring, no coding, nothing: you just snap these modules together, and you can create amazing robots and interact with them using apps on your phone:

The simplest MOSS kit is just $60, and the Kickstarter has already blown way past its funding goal with 33 days left. Get it on it!

[ MOSS ]



One of the nice things about robots is that we can endow them with extra degrees of freedom that humans don't possess, but that would make us a lot more effective if we did. For example, spinning fingers give you a robotic hand that's much more, you know, handy:

The Namiki Laboratory (at Chiba University in Japan) also posted this video (with no description) that looks to be a master-slave robot using power tools and busting through a wall:

Namiki Laboratory ]



I absolutely love this little robot called Robo Faber, which continuously draws pseudo-random patterns on paper, creating a series of unique works of art:

[ Matthias Dörfelt ] via [ Popular Science ]



The creators of the cloth climbing robot we saw last year are back. Their new robot, called Rubbot, looks smaller than their earlier model, and uses only two wheels to grip and climb up creases on loose cloth. The researchers, after conducting numerous experiments, say their robot can climb, turn, and even drive upside down on different types of clothing.

"Rubbot: Rubbing on Flexible Loose Surfaces," by Guangchen Chen, Yuanyuan Liu, Ruiqing Fu, Jianwei Sun, Xinyu Wu, and Yangsheng Xu, from Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Chinese University of Hong Kong. Presented at 2013 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Tokyo, Japan.



Researchers have been building earthquake simulators since the 1970s. These simulators are used to assess how buildings and other infrastructure would behave during a real earthquake. They're also used to educate people by letting them experience a simulated seismic event and be better prepared for a real situation. But most earthquake simulators are huge and costly. A team from Tokyo Tech, Tamagawa University, and Hakusan Corp. decided to address that problem and build a portable earthquake simulator. The device, called Jishin-The-Vuton 3D, is elegantly simple, consisting of an omnidirectional wheel system embedded on a platform.

"Development of the Portable Ground Motion Simulator of an Earthquake," by Se-gon Roh, Yasuhiro Taguchi, Yusuke Nishida, Ryusuke Yamaguchi, Yasushi Fukuda, Shingo Kuroda, Minoru Yoshida, Edwardo F. Fukushima, and Shigeo Hirose, from Tokyo Tech, Tamagawa University, and Hakusan Corp. Presented at 2013 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Tokyo, Japan.



At IROS and IREX, many researchers and companies presented exoskeletons and other human assistive devices. Though most appear to be powered by electric motors, a few are driven by air. That's the case of a "lower limb power assist" developed by Okayama University researchers. They say their device is like a pair of pants, but it's equipped with pneumatic soft actuators that inflate at the right time to help the user move his or her legs.

"Development of Pneumatic Lower Limb Power Assist Wear driven with Wearable Air Supply System," by Daisuke Sasaki, Toshiro Noritsugu and Masahiro Takaiwa from Okayama University, Japan. Presented at 2013 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Tokyo, Japan.



And after a hectic week at IROS and IREX, this is exactly what we need: A nice, relaxing robotic hair wash. Created by Panasonic researchers, this "head care robot," as they call it, has scrubbing fingers that wash hair and massage the scalp. It's designed for hospitals and other care facilities, and it's supposedly better than other hair washing robots because its robotic scrubbing system can correct the orientation of the fingers to align them along the head's surface.

"Development of Head Care Robot Using Five-Bar Closed Link Mechanism with Enhanced Head Shape Following Capability," by Toshinori Hirose, Takeshi Ando, Soichiro Fujioka and Osamu Mizuno, from Panasonic Corp., Osaka, Japan. Presented at 2013 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Tokyo, Japan.


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