Video Friday IROS 2014: Humanoid Eyes, Drones With Arms, and Printable Robots

Some of our favorite videos from this massive robotics conference

6 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum's Digital Innovation Director.

Video Friday IROS 2014: Humanoid Eyes, Drones With Arms, and Printable Robots
Aldebaran's humanoid robot Romeo.
Image: Aldebaran Robotics

The 2014 IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) just ended here in Chicago, and we've spent all week checking out the bleeding edge of robotics research. We've started to post some of the most interesting stuff, and we'll have lots (lots) more for you over the next several weeks, but for now, we're utterly exhausted.

So for Video Friday, we selected 10 of our favorite videos presented at the conference. We're posting each with its title above and paper abstract below. Again, we'll have plenty more dedicated in-depth IROS posts for you coming up, but while we fly back to base to recover, these vids should tide you over. Enjoy!

"Head-Eyes System and Gaze Analysis of the Humanoid Robot Romeo," by N. Pateromichelakis, A. Mazel, M. A. Hache, T. Koumpogiannis, R. Gelin, B. Maisonnier, and A. Berthoz, from Aldebaran Robotics.

In this work we present the head assembly and the gaze shifting capabilities of the bipedal humanoid robot Romeo. The purpose of the head system is to provide a reliable hardware platform for Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) applications, stereo vision based navigation or gazing experiments, either as stand-alone version or in synergy with the body movements. Towards this purpose, the number of joints, the angular range, speed and acceleration of the eyes and neck rotations should be should be in agreement with human psychophysics, i.e. reproducing realistic kinematics. We present a mechatronic system of the head and neck; accompanied by experimental results of head-fixed eye movements, solely head rotations, as well as eye-head cooperative motion for large angles of gaze shifting. We compare the values achieved by the prototype, with those of an average adult human.



"Control of a Multirotor Outdoor Aerial Manipulator," by G. Heredia, A.E. Jimenez-Cano, I. Sanchez, D. Llorente, V. Vega, J. Braga, J.A. Acosta, and A. Ollero, from University of Seville.

This paper presents the design and control of a multirotor-based aerial manipulator developed for outdoor operation. The multi-rotor has eight rotors and large payload to integrate a 7-degrees of freedom arm and to carry sensors and processing hardware needed for outdoor positioning. The arm can also carry an end-effector and sensors to perform different missions. The paper focuses on the control design and implementation aspects. A stable backstepping-based controller for the multirotor that uses the coupled full dynamic model is proposed, and an admittance controller for the manipulator arm is outlined. Several experimental tests with the aerial manipulator are also presented. In one of the experiments, the performance of the pitch attitude controller is compared to a PID controller. Other experiments of the arm controller following an object with the camera are also presented.



"Torque Control Strategies for Snake Robots," by David Rollinson, Kalyan Vasudev Alwala, Nico Zevallos, and Howie Choset, from Carnegie Mellon University.

We present three methods of achieving compliant motion with a snake robot by controlling the torques exerted by the joints of the robot. Two strategies command joint torques based solely on the robot’s local curvature (i.e. joint angles). A third strategy commands joint angles, velocities, and torques based on the recorded feedback from the robot while executing a previously defined motion under position control. The three control strategies are implemented and compared on a snake robot that includes series elastic actuation (SEA) and torque sensing at each joint, and demonstrate compliant locomotion that adapts automatically to the robot’s surrounding terrain.



"Advances in Fibrillar On-Off Polymer Adhesive: Sensing and Engagement Speed," by Nicholas Wettels and Aaron Parness, from JPL.

ON-OFF adhesives can benefit manufacturing and space applications by providing the capability to selectively anchor two surfaces together repeatedly and releasably without significant preload. Two key areas of concern are speed of engagement and sensing the quality of that engagement. Here we describe a dual-purpose proximity and tactile sensor for the contact surfaces of robotic systems. Using infrared emitters and combinations of wide and narrow angle detectors, this device combines proximity and force sensing to seamlessly transition from a pre-contact to contact state. As an inherently low-power device, it is amenable to mobile robotic applications. We also present results showing this engagement can occur very rapidly, making it useful in high-throughput manufacturing and dexterous manipulation tasks.



"OrigamiBot-I: A Thread-Actuated Origami Robot for Manipulation and Locomotion," by Evan Vander Hoff, Donghwa Jeong, and Kiju Lee, from Case Western Reserve University.

This paper presents OrigamiBot-I, a thread-actuated origami robot, to demonstrate a physical application of an origami design for robotic manipulation and locomotion. The selected design can generate twisting and bending motions by pulling, pushing, or torsional force applied to the origami structure. Thread-based actuation also enables various shapes and motions by using different numbers of threads and routing them through different paths. The kinematics for each twisting and bending motions based on estimated parameters is derived. To evaluate potential use of origami for real-world applications and identify structural weaknesses, preliminary stiffness and durability testing was conducted. For physical demonstrations of robotic manipulation and locomotion, OrigamiBot-I was equipped with four independently-routed threads, where each thread is controlled by a geared DC motor. The robot successfully demonstrated its simple manipulation and locomotion capabilities.



"Towards Valve Turning using a Dual-Arm Aerial Manipulator," by Christopher Korpela, Matko Orsag, and Paul Oh, from Drexel University.

We propose a framework for valve turning using an aerial vehicle endowed with dual multi-degree of freedom manipulators. A tightly integrated control scheme between the aircraft and manipulators is mandated for tasks requiring aircraft to environmental coupling. Feature detection is well-established for both ground and aerial vehicles and facilitates valve detection and arm tracking. Force feedback upon contact with the environment provides compliant motions in the presence of position error and coupling with the valve. We present recent results validating the valve turning framework using the proposed aircraft-arm system during flight tests.



"More Solutions Means More Problems: Resolving Kinematic Redundancy in Robot Locomotion on Complex Terrain," by Brian W. Satzinger, Jason I. Reid, Max Bajracharya, Paul Hebert, and Katie Byl, from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and JPL.

This paper addresses the open challenge of planning quasi-static walking motions for robots with kinematically redundant limbs. Focusing on RoboSimian, a quadrupedal robot developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), we develop a practical method for generating statically stable walking motions by pre-computing a reduced dimensional inverse kinematics (IK) lookup table with certain uniqueness and smoothness properties. We then use that lookup table to generate IK solutions at the beginning and end of walking phases (e.g., swing, body shift, etc), and connect these waypoints using the Rapidly exploring Random Tree Connect (RRT- Connect) algorithm [1]. Thus, we avoid arbitrarily choosing an IK solution at the goal (that may turn out to be difficult to reach from the start) by setting this choice through design and use of a task-specific lookup table, which can be analyzed offline. Our approach also introduces a complementary formulation of the RRT-Connect configuration space that addresses contact and closure constraints by using the forward kinematics of one stance leg to determine the body pose while treating additional stance limbs as dependent on the body pose and solving their inverse kinematics with IK table lookup. We demonstrate an implementation of some of this framework on RoboSimian and discuss generalizations and extensions.



"A Single DOF Arm for Transition of Climbing Robots Between Perpendicular Planes," by Carlos Viegas and Mahmoud Tavakoli, from University of Coimbra.

This paper introduces a novel single DOF plane transition mechanism, designed to enable wheel based climbing robots to transit between perpendicular planes. The developed mechanism is composed of an arm with two revolute joints derived by a single motor. An innovative transmission mechanism is designed based on the required trajectory and relative position for each arm link, enabling individual or simultaneous rotation of the two joints during the transition movement. An electromagnetic unit which adapts to both flat and curved structures is also designed and integrated in the arm. This solution was installed on the omnidirectional climbing robot, OmniClimber. The mechanism was successfully tested on a curved structure with a diameter of 220mm.



"Reactive Posture Behaviors for Stable Legged Locomotion over Steep Inclines and Large Obstacles," by A. Roennau, G. Heppner, M. Nowicki, J.M. Zoellner, and R. Dillmann, from FZI Research Center for Information Technology and Poznan University of Technology.

Multi-legged walking robots often make use of so- phisticated control architectures to play their strengths in rough and unknown environments. The adaptability of these robots is an essential skill to achieve the maneuverability and autonomy needed in their application fields. In this work we present a reactive control approach for the hexapod LAURONV, which enables it to overcome large obstacles and steep slopes without any knowledge about the environment. A key to this success can also be seen in the increased kinematic adaptability due to the fourth rotational joint in the bio-inspired leg kinematics. An extended experimental evaluation shows that the reactive posture behaviors are able to create an effective and efficient locomotion in challenging environments.



And's a co-winner of the Best Paper Award:

"Cogeneration of Mechanical, Electrical, and Software Designs for Printable Robots from Structural Specifications," by Ankur M. Mehta, Joseph DelPreto, Benjamin Shaya, and Daniela Rus, from MIT.

Designing and fabricating new robotic systems is typically limited to experts, requiring engineering background, expensive tools, and considerable time. In contrast, to facilitate everyday users developing custom robots for personal use, this work presents a new system to easily create printable foldable robots from high-level structural specifications. A user merely needs to select electromechanical components from a library of basic building blocks and pre-designed mechanisms, then connect them to define custom robot assemblies. The system then generates complete mechanical drawings suitable for fabrication, instructions for the assembly of electronics, and software to control and drive the final robot. Several robots designed in this manner demonstrate the ability and versatility of this process.

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