Kuka's Robutt
Image: Kuka via YouTube

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!):

ARSO 2019 – October 31-1, 2019 – Beijing, China
ROSCon 2019 – October 31-1, 2019 – Macau
IROS 2019 – November 4-8, 2019 – Macau

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

Kuka’s “robutt” can, according to the company, simulate “thousands of butts in the pursuit of durability and comfort.” Two of the robots are used at a Ford development center in Germany to evaluate new car seats. The tests are quite exhaustive, consisting of around 25,000 simulated sitting motions for each new seat design.” Or as Kuka puts it, “Pleasing all the butts on the planet is serious business.”

Kuka ]

Here’s a clever idea: 3D printing manipulators, and then using the 3D printer head to move those manipulators around and do stuff with them:

[ Paper ]

Two former soldiers performed a series of tests to see if the ONYX Exoskeleton gave them extra strength and endurance in difficult environments.

So when can I rent one of these to help me move furniture?

[ Lockheed ]

One of the defining characteristics of legged robots in general (and humanoid robots in particular) is the ability of walking on various types of terrain. In this video, we show our humanoid robot TORO walking dynamically over uneven (on grass outside the lab), rough (large gravel), and compliant terrain (a soft gym mattress). The robot can maintain its balance, even when the ground shifts rapidly under foot, such as when walking over gravel. This behaviour showcases the torque-control capability of quickly adapting the contact forces compared to position control methods.

An in-depth discussion of the current implementation is presented in the paper "Dynamic Walking on Compliant and Uneven Terrain using DCM and Passivity-based Whole-body Control".


Tsuki is a ROS-enabled quadruped designed and built by Lingkang Zhang. It’s completely position controlled, with no contact sensors on the feet, or even an IMU.

It can even do flips!

[ Tsuki ]

Thanks Lingkang!

TRI CEO Dr. Gill Pratt presents TRI’s contributions to Toyota’s New "LQ" Concept Vehicle, which includes onboard artificial intelligence agent "Yui" and LQ’s automated driving technology.

[ TRI ]

Hooman Hedayati wrote in to share some work (presented at HRI this year) on using augmented reality to make drone teleoperation more intuitive. Get a virtual drone to do what you want first, and then the real drone will follow.

[ Paper ]

Thanks Hooman!

You can now order a Sphero RVR for $250. It’s very much not spherical, but it does other stuff, so we’ll give it a pass.

[ Sphero ]

The AI Gamer Q56 robot is an expert at whatever this game is, using AI plus actual physical control manipulation. Watch until the end!

[ Bandai Namco ]

We present a swarm of autonomous flying robots for the exploration of unknown environments. The tiny robots do not make maps of their environment, but deal with obstacles on the fly. In robotics, the algorithms for navigating like this are called "bug algorithms". The navigation of the robots involves them first flying away from the base station and later finding their way back with the help of a wireless beacon.

[ MAVLab ]

Okay Soft Robotics you successfully and disgustingly convinced us that vacuum grippers should never be used for food handling. Yuck!

[ Soft Robotics ]

Beyond the asteroid belt are "fossils of planet formation" known as the Trojan asteroids. These primitive bodies share Jupiter’s orbit in two vast swarms, and may hold clues to the formation and evolution of our solar system. Now, NASA is preparing to explore the Trojan asteroids for the first time. A mission called Lucy will launch in 2021 and visit seven asteroids over the course of twelve years - one in the main belt and six in Jupiter’s Trojan swarms.

[ NASA ]

I’m not all that impressed by this concept car from Lexus except that it includes some kind of super-thin autonomous luggage-carrying drone.

The LF-30 Electrified also carries the ‘Lexus Airporter’ drone-technology support vehicle. Using autonomous control, the Lexus Airporter is capable of such tasks as independently transporting baggage from a household doorstep to the vehicle’s luggage area.

[ Lexus ]

Vision 60 legged robot managing unstructured terrain without vision or force sensors in its legs. Using only high-transparency actuators and 2kHz algorithmic stability control... 4-limbs and 12-motors with only a velocity command.

[ Ghost Robotics ]

Tech United Eindhoven is looking good for RoboCup@Home 2020.

[ Tech United ]

Penn engineers participated in the Subterranean (SubT) Challenge hosted by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The goal of this Challenge is for teams to develop automated systems that can work in underground environments so they could be deployed after natural disasters or on dangerous search-and-rescue missions.

[ Team PLUTO ]

It’s BeetleCam vs White Rhinos in Kenya, and the White Rhinos don’t seem to mind at all.

[ Will Burrard-Lucas ]

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

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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