Video Friday: Science Lab Robot, Will Smith's Android Date, and Soft Robotic Gripper

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

7 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum’s digital innovation director.

Soft Robotics combines robotic soft grippers with AI
Image: Soft Robotics

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!):

US National Robotics Week – April 7-17, 2018 – United States
Xconomy Robo Madness – April 12, 2018 – Bedford, Mass., USA
NASA Swarmathon – April 17-19, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA
RoboSoft 2018 – April 24-28, 2018 – Livorno, Italy
ICARSC 2018 – April 25-27, 2018 – Torres Vedras, Portugal
NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 14-18, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA
ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia
RSS 2018 – June 26-30, 2018 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA
Ubiquitous Robots 2018 – June 27-30, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii

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

As far as I can tell, biologists spend the vast majority of their time moving tiny amounts of liquid around in order to maybe possibly eventually do a little bit of analysis that could lead to some Real Science. Opentrons has announced their OT-2 lab robot, which will enable biologists to instead spend the vast majority of their time simply worrying about whether those tiny amounts of liquid have interesting stuff going on in them or not.

$4,000 in a context like this is basically nothing. For many labs, this could mean that everyone gets their own robot, and if it’s a significant productivity boost, it’ll be totally worth it.

[ Opentrons ]

Cybersecurity experts have a new tool in the fight against hackers —a decoy robot. Researchers at Georgia Tech built the “HoneyBot” to lure hackers into thinking they had taken control of a robot, but instead the robot gathers valuable information about the bad actors, helping businesses better protect themselves from future attacks.

The gadget can be monitored and controlled through the internet. But unlike other remote-controlled robots, the HoneyBot’s special ability is tricking its operators into thinking it is performing one task, when in reality it’s doing something completely different.

In a factory setting, such a HoneyBot robot could sit motionless in a corner, springing to life when a hacker gains access—a visual indicator that a malicious actor is targeting the facility. Rather than allowing the hacker to then run amok in the physical world, the robot could be designed to follow certain commands deemed harmless—such as meandering slowly about or picking up objects —but stopping short of actually doing anything dangerous.

[ Georgia Tech ]

SNU Soft Robotics Research Center led by Professor CHO Kyu-Jin at the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering has developed an origami-inspired robotic arm that is foldable, self-folding and also highly-rigid. (The researchers include Suk-Jun Kim, Dae-Young Lee, Gwang-Pil Jung, Professor of SeoulTech).

The researchers developed a novel robotic arm using a concept of variable stiffness. The robotic arm made it possible to change the shape with a single wire, thus raising the possibility of practical use of the origami structure. The robotic arm is light-weighted, and can fold flat and extend like an automatic umbrella and even becomes instantly stiff.

Benefits of the foldable robotic arm can be maximized when it is attached to drones where the weight and the size constraints are the most extreme. In the video, the drone unfolds the robotic arm, picks up an object in the ditch, and films the trees. When the robotic arm is not in use, it folds flat for convenient maneuvering, easy take-off and landing. The proposed variable stiffness mechanism can be applied to other types of robots and structures in extreme environments such as polar area, desert, underwater, and space.

SNU ] via [ Science Robotics ]

Meet SuperPick: The first autonomous soft robotic solution designed specifically for e-commerce and retail logistics environments. SuperPick combines the power of soft robotics with artificial intelligence to enable automation of highly unstructured tasks like bin picking, sorting, and order fulfillment.

See it next month at MODEX.

Soft Robotics ] via [ TechCrunch ]

Things get awkward when Will meets Sophia the Robot for an intimate conversation in the Cayman Islands.

[ Hansen Robotics ] via [ YouTube ]

I don’t know about you, but Howie is one of the most realistic self-storage helper bots I’ve ever seen.

Even in the U.K., it’s only March 30. WE’RE NOT READY FOR APRIL 1 YET.

[ Howie ]

Introducing the newest addition to the Trailer Valet family: The RVR Series. Our first self-motorized and remote-controlled series of units, the RVR is designed to take the chore out of moving your trailer.

Huh. I didn’t realize this was a problem, but I approve of the solution.

Trailer Valet ]

One way to reliably get a robot to identify a rabbit:

One rabbit may have been mildly inconvenienced during the making of this video.

Emys ]

Thanks, Jan!

Raytheon UK Quadcopter Challenge National Final saw six schools from different UK regions compete against each other to become the 2017 Champion! Quadcopters were built and flown by students in this exciting engineering based challenge, fuelling their interest in STEM subjects.

[ Raytheon ]

TUDelft MavLab had its first autonomous flight beyond line of sight with its VTOL drone, which must have been nerve-wracking. But it’s all good, so yay!

[ TU Delft ]

Human-in-the-loop manipulation is useful in when autonomous grasping is not able to deal sufficiently well with corner cases or cannot operate fast enough. Using the teleoperator’s hand as an input device can provide an intuitive control method but requires mapping between pose spaces which may not be similar. We propose a low-dimensional and continuous teleoperation subspace which can be used as an intermediary for mapping between different hand pose spaces. We present an algorithm to project between pose space and teleoperation subspace. We use a non-anthropomorphic robot to experimentally prove that it is possible for teleoperation subspaces to effectively and intuitively enable teleoperation. In experiments, novice users completed pick and place tasks significantly faster using teleoperation subspace mapping than they did using state of the art teleoperation methods.

[ Paper ]

It’s so simple, but I would use this every day.

[ YouTube ]

Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, Chief Experience Officer and Co-Founder, Jibo, Inc. describes what makes Jibo different, and why this little robot represents something far bigger.

[ Jibo ]

Within the research project “On-Orbit Servicing – End-to-End Simulation”, the German Aerospace Center, DLR, demonstrates and simulates on-ground the final approach and the capturing of an uncontrolled target satellite.

I like the idea that the hardware for this is just going to be a rocket with a Kuka arm strapped to it.

[ DLR ]

Does your luggage transportation pipeline need robots? Of course it does.

[ Dorabot ]

Disney Research looks at people handing stuff to robots:

This work presents an exploratory user study of human-to-robot handovers. In particular, it examines how changes in a robot behavior influence human participation and the overall interaction. With a 2x2x2 experimental design, we vary three basic factors and observe both the interaction position and forces. We find the robot’s initial pose can inform the giver about the upcoming handover geometry and impact fluency and efficiency. Also, we find variations in grasp method and retraction speed induce significantly different interaction forces. This effect may occur by changing the giver’s perception of object safety and hence their release timing. Alternatively, it may stem from unnatural or mismatched robot movements. We determine that making the robot predictable is important: we observe a learning effect with forces declining over repeated trials. Simultaneously, the participants’ self-reported discomfort with the robot decreases and perception of emotional warmth increases. Thus, we posit users are learning to predict the robot, becoming more familiar with its behaviors, and perhaps becoming more trusting of the robot’s ability to safely receive the object. We find these results exciting as we believe a robot can become a trusted partner in collaborative tasks.

[ Disney Research ]

The next Mars-bound science robot, InSight, is launching in just a few weeks. Here’s an overview:

[ NASA ]

For more than a decade, the Cluster of Excellence CITEC has been working to build better bridges between humans and technology. CITEC researchers explain the aspects that make their Cluster unique.


On this week’s episode of Robots in Depth, Per interviews Frank Tobe, founder of The Robot Report, now part of WTWH Media.

Frank Tobe shares his experience from covering robotics in The Robot Report and creating the index Robo-Stox. Frank talks about how and why he shifted to robotics and how looking for an investment opportunity in robotics lead him to start Robo-Stox (since renamed to ROBO Global), a robotics focused index company. Both companies have given Frank a unique perspective on the robotics scene as a whole, over a significant period of time, and we are pleased that he wanted to share some of his insights from that with us.

[ Robots in Depth ]

This week’s CMU RI Seminar comes from Oregon State’s Ravi Balasubramanian, on “Robotics-Inspired Implantable Passive Mechanisms to Surgically Re-engineer the Human Body.”

Tendon-transfer surgeries are performed for a variety of conditions such as stroke, palsies, trauma, and congenital defects. The surgery involves re-routing a tendon from a nonfunctioning muscle to a functioning muscle to partially restore lost function. However, a fundamental aspect of the current surgery, namely the suture that attaches the tendon(s) to the muscles, can lead to poor post-surgery function. For example, in the hand tendon-transfer surgery for high median-ulnar palsy, one muscle is sutured to all four finger flexor tendons. This couples finger movement, prevents the fingers from adapting to an object’s shape while grasping, and leads to poor hand function overall. This project investigates the design and use of miniature passive differential mechanisms, such as pulleys and links, as implants to attach the muscles and tendons in place of the direct suture. Results from biomechanical simulations and human cadaver experiments show that the new surgical procedure results in significantly better hand function in terms of finger movement and reduced actuator-force requirement in grasping tasks. The long-term goal is to enable re-engineering the mechanics of movement and force transmission from within the body using robotic devices.

[ CMU RI ]

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