Video Friday: Keecker Not a Robot, Drone Racing, and Robotics Tipping Point

Your weekly dose of robot videos

4 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

Video Friday: Keecker Not a Robot, Drone Racing, and Robotics Tipping Point
Image: Keecker

Today, we’ll be attending the 2014 edition of the Stanford-Berkeley Robotics Symposium. These two fine institutions have historically been partners, allies, and friends The SBRS is a manifestation of that, featuring a solid day of presentations from professors and students. Last year at Berkeley, more than a few interesting things happened, and this year we’re looking forward to more of the same. Except better.

We’ll bring you highlights when we’ve got ’em, but until then, videos!

Keecker is a mobile computer that puts a projector and an audio system on a mobile base, along with a bunch of potentially interesting sensors. Its creators don’t think of it as a robot: “robots are often described as utilitarian and automating man’s tasks, to us this doesn’t match Keecker,” says founder and CEO Pierre Lebeau. “We really see Keecker as the evolution of computers, one that is 100 percent designed for a home or collective environment.”

The robot machine does have some autonomous capabilities, however, which is why we’re writing about it here. The description is a bit vague, so we asked Lebeau how it all worked:

What hardware and software allows Keecker to follow people, avoid obstacles, and autonomously navigate from room?

It's a multitude of sensors and data that is used to make Keecker move, lock-in on people and avoid obstacles. We use a mix of infrared and ultrasound signals, multiple camera imagery analysis as well as wifi network scanning, and more — but that's our secret sauce. 

What kind of autonomous capabilities does Keecker have?

Keecker moves from room to room, can remember particular spots in your house so you can tell it to go from one place to another in just one click. You can also control Keecker yourself from your smartphone even if you're away from home as it'll stream its camera to your phone and will let you move it in real time. Keecker can also be programmed to move from room to room during the day or night to check if everything is normal (temperature, humidity, CO2 level, etc). When the battery is low, Keecker goes back to recharge itself next to its base. 

Keecker is on Kickstarter, just a smidgeon away from reaching its funding goal. The robot (it's officially autonomous, we’re calling it a robot) can be pre-ordered for $2,500 at the moment, or half of the price that it’ll eventually retail for.

[ Keecker ] via [ Kickstarter ]

Lots of drone videos this week, and we’ll start with this one, because this looks like a huge amount of fun:

Airgonay ]

The GRASP lab at the University of Pennsylvania has outfitted one of their quadrotors with gecko-inspired adhesive from Stanford, resulting in a quadrotor that can stick itself (or perch) on smooth surfaces at angles of up to 90 degrees:

[ Vijay Kumar Lab ]

Thanks Vijay!

Here’s a very similar video from the Illinois Institute of Tech, also showing dry adhesive perching:

The video shows autonomous perching and take-off of a quadrotor micro air vehicle (MAV) using a novel dry adhesive gripper on a smooth vertical wall. The gripper mechanism uses three directional dry adhesive pads in a triangular configuration. Each pad is equipped with a force sensor that can detect the pad’s loading condition. A servo motor is used to actuate the attachment and detachment of the gripper, which is mounted in the front of a quadrotor MAV. This makes perching possible by simply flying toward and hitting the target surface.

Autonomous control is made possible using a Microsoft Kinect to localize the MAV and a PID controller to control the perching maneuver. Experiments show that a minimum speed of 0.4m/s is required to guarantee a successful perch. Also, in 93% of the experiments in which the MAV hits the target at a speed higher than 0.4m/s the perching maneuver is successful. 

To initiate a take-off procedure, a release signal is sent to the servo and the gripper is detached from the wall by pulling the adhesive away from the surface. Once the gripper is detached, the MAV becomes airborne again and the control system stabilizes the flight.

[ IIT ]

Thanks Arash!

Now here’s a bad thing to do with a drone. It’s stuff like this that can give drone technology a bad reputation. Sigh.

Violence was sparked at a soccer qualifying game between Serbia and Albania when a drone carrying an Albanian flag and a map showing Kosovo as part of “Greater Albania” was flown over Belgrade’s Partizan Stadium. WSJ's Niki Blasina reports.

And depending on where you’re flying, humans aren’t the only ones upset by drones.

The guy who took this video, Christopher Schmidt, says that the hawk was fine, and his drone (a Phantom FC40) just suffered some bent landing gear but was otherwise fine.

YouTube ]

I don’t drink coffee, but I’d drink this coffee:

No tips.

Kawada Robotics Blog ]

I'm not sure why this particular Anki car thinks it deserves to have a girlfriend like Roomba. Also, I will refrain from making ANY OF THE JOKES that this little video calls for:

[ Anki ]

Our last drone disaster video today, we promise. Apparently the operator lost connection to his drone, causing it to attempt a return to the launch point. The only problem was, there was something in the way.

[ YouTube ]

I say this every single time I post X-47B videos: I still cannot believe that this thing is real and not part of a sci-fi movie. And videos like these aren't helping:

[ X-47B ] via [ Gizmodo ]

Getting out of a car is really, really hard for ATLAS. WPI explains why:

[ WPI ]

And our final video, something to keep your brain busy for the rest of the day.

Robotics at the Tipping Point, moderated by Howie Choset, CMU Robotics Institute

This panel discussion will be moderated by Robotics Professor Howie Choset and feature noted alumni James Gosling (SCS’83) and Kevin Dowling (CS’83,’94,’97). James is known as the inventor of Java and is currently the Chief Software Architect at Liquid Robotics, where he’s working on an autonomous, environmentally powered ocean-going platform for gathering and transmitting data about the ocean. Kevin’s career has included technical leadership in robotics and LED lighting; he is now VP of Engineering at 4Moms. They will be joined by Carnegie Mellon faculty members Nathan Michael and Yaser Sheikh.

[ SCS25 ]

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