Video Friday: Printable Hydraulic Robots, Medical Delivery Drones, and Romeo Walks

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.

Video Friday: Printable Hydraulic Robots, Medical Delivery Drones, and Romeo Walks
Image: TheAmazel via YouTube

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your fluid-filled 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!):

Robotics in Education 2016 – April 14-15, 2016 – Vienna, Austria
NASA Swarmathon – April 18-22, 2016 – NASA KSC, Fla., USA
LEO Robotics Congress – April 21, 2016 – Eindhoven, Netherlands
FIRST Robotics Championship – April 27-30, 2016 – St. Louis, Missouri
International Collaborative Robots Workshop – May 3-4, 2016 – Boston, Mass., USA
ICARSC 2016 – May 4-6, 2016 – Bragança, Portugal
Robotica 2016 – May 4-8, 2016 – Bragança, Portugal
ARMS 2016 – May 9-13, 2016 – Singapore
ICRA 2016 – May 16-21, 2016 – Stockholm, Sweden
NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 18-20, 2016 – NASA KSC, Fla., USA
Skolkovo Robotics Conference – May 20, 2016 – Skolkovo, Russia
Innorobo 2016 – May 24-26, 2016 – Paris, France
RoboCity16 – May 26-27, 2016 – Madrid, Spain
RoboBusiness Europe – June 1-3, 2016 – Odense, Denmark
IEEE RAS MRSSS 2016 – June 6-10, 2016 – Singapore
CR-HRI – June 6-10, 2016 – Orlando, Fla., USA
NASA SRRC Level 1 – June 6-11, 2016 – Worcester, Mass., USA
Field Robot Event – June 14-18, 2016 – Haßfurt, Germany
RSS 2016 – June 18-22, 2016 – Ann Arbor, Mich., USA
European Land Robot Trial – June 20-24, 2016 – Eggendorf, Austria
Automatica 2016 – June 21-25, 2016 – Munich, Germany
ISR 2016 – June 21-22, 2016 – Munich, Germany
UK National Robotics Week – June 25-1, 2016 – United Kingdom
TAROS 2016 – June 28-30, 2016 – Sheffield, United Kingdom
RoboCup 2016 – June 30-4, 2016 – Leipzig, Germany
Amazon Picking Challenge – June 30-4, 2016 – Leipzig, Germany

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

MIT has developed a 3D printer that can mix solids and liquids. This is more about advances in 3D printing than it is about robots, but the robotic applications for the technology are certainly significant:

From the press release:

With “printable hydraulics,” an inkjet printer deposits individual droplets of material that are each 20 to 30 microns in diameter, or less than half the width of a human hair. The printer proceeds layer-by-layer from the bottom up. For each layer, the printer deposits different materials in different parts, and then uses high-intensity UV light to solidify all of the materials (minus, of course, the liquids). The printer uses multiple materials, though at a more basic level each layer consist of a “photopolymer,” which is a solid, and “a non-curing material,” which is a liquid.

Since there’s a duckie in the video, we can be confident that we’ll learn more next month at ICRA!


Festo announced its Bionic Learning Network for 2016, and while there weren’t any birds or ants or kangaroos or anything, there was this giant spherical blimp that can, uh, swallow stuff:

The handling system consists of an ultra-light carbon ring with eight adaptive propellers. In the middle of the ring sits a rotatable helium ball with an integrated gripping element. As a result, both man and machine can interact with each other easily and safely, opening up entirely new possibilities for the workplace of the future. In this future, people could be supported by the spheres, using them as a flying assistance system – for example, when working at giddying heights or in hard-to-access areas.

There’s also this “3D Cocooner,” which is a sort of spider-inspired 3D printer that uses a resin-infused fiber:

With the 3D Cocooner, Festo has developed a bionic technology platform that spins complex and equally stable shapes, which are very similar to these natural structures. In order to convert the soft thread into a solid lattice structure, it is covered with a special resin in the spinneret. As soon as it comes out of the spinneret, a UV light cures the resin-soaked fibre with pinpoint accuracy and hardens it into a sturdy little rod. During the process, the thread can be reset at any point on the lattice structure, where it continues to build. In this way, it is possible to construct even complex shapes in three-dimensional space without any supports.

[ Festo ]

Let me explain what’s about to happen here: at the WeRobot 2016 conference, a bunch of otherwise semi-serious roboticists and law professors took it upon themselves to personally and cooperatively simulate a robot. The guy in the corner with the back to everything is the brain, and the mission of this two-armed mobile robot is to pick up a box. Like most attempts to do something with a robot for the first time, it doesn’t go so well (and you may need to turn your volume up to hear what’s happening):

Featuring David Britton as the brain, Burton Rosenberg as the vision system, Kate Darling as the right arm, and Jo Bac as the left arm. Overall disaster orchestrated by Bill Smart, and video (thank heavens there’s video) courtesy Eduard Fosch.

[ WeRobot 2016 ]

Thanks Eduard, Kate, and Bill!

Remember how much we hate delivery drones? The exception is when delivery drones are, in fact, the most practical way of getting very important things from one place to another, like delivering medical supplies around Rwanda:

You may have recognized a couple people in that video: Keller Rinaudo co-founded Romotive, and Keenan Wyrobek was one of the people who originally brought the PR2 from Stanford to Willow Garage. If anyone can make delivery drones happen in a realistic and useful way, it’s these guys.

[ Zipline ]

For HeboCon 2016 (Las Vegas Edition), Sarah Petkus competed with a robot that had a structure based at least partially on meat. Yes, meat.

And there’s much more to HeboCon than just questionable meat:

[ Sarah Petkus ] via [ Synshop ]

RoboCup European Open 2016 Final MSL League. Tech United in black, Cambada in green:

That second goal was pretty spectacular, whether you’re a robot or a human.

[ RoboCup 2016 ] via [ Tech United ]

MARLO continues to impress with his ability to walk over random terrain and not bite it, even with just six motors and zero (zero!) sensors:

I would just like to reiterate my desire for them to come up with a better way of getting MARLO to stop than just murdering it whenever it’s successful.

[ Michigan ]

Thanks Brent!

I suppose we’re obligated to post this video of a drone carrying a chainsaw, although to be honest, this feel like it’s trying too hard to be cool to actually be cool, if you know what I mean.

[ YouTube ]

I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually seen Romeo walk before...?

[ TheAmazel ]

Matt Reimer is a farmer in Manitoba. He has a problem: “it’s hard to find good labour on the farm to drive the grain cart for a few weeks each year. Also it is a pretty boring job that no one really wants to do.” The solution? “Put an autopilot from drones into my tractor to make it autonomous.” Okay then!

For some reason I really want one of those twelve-wheeled tractors. For no  details on where to find one of those, but lots of details on how Matt made his autopilot work, check out his page on Hackaday.

[ Matt Reimer ] via [ Hackaday ]

We’ve been following the progress of the scariest quadrotor anyone has ever seen, and it’s up to full throttle testing (without shredding itself into bits) and can almost lift itself off the ground:

Remind me to stay very very far away from this.

[ McCloud Aero ]

I am continually blown away by the amount of different creative things that you can do with Thymio:

[ Mobsya ]

As far as I can tell, the moral of this video from Sphero is that friends suck, do robotics instead:

And this is why I have no friends!

[ Sphero SPRK ]

Loon Copter swam/flew away from the 2016 UAE Drones for Good competition with a million dollars. Here’s a montage of some pool testing, and from the competition itself:

[ Loon Copter ]

Remember robotics manipulation research before the PR2? Me neither. But Pieter Abbeel does! Here’s towel folding, pre-PR2 edition (2009):

[ UC Berkeley ]

Google Lunar XPRIZE, Episode 4:

Alex Dobrianski emigrated from the Ukraine to Vancouver to build a better life for his wife Luda and their three children. Twenty years later, after launching a career in IT, he staked his retirement money on the GLXP and recruited his son Sergei to help him pursue his lifelong passion for aerospace, which Alex had been forced to abandon in post-Soviet Ukraine.

[ Google Lunar XPRIZE ]

Chris Urmson’s talk about the current state of Google’s self-driving car program from SXSW is excellent, and worth investing an hour in:

Everyone’s talking about self-driving cars these days, but how can you differentiate between hype and reality? In the six years of Google’s project, its vehicles have self-driven over 1.3 million miles, racking up the equivalent of 90 years of human driving experience. Google says its cars can now handle the vast majority of everyday situations it finds on the roads, but what does the path to a driverless future look like? How could it be that self-driving cars be both three and 30 years away?

[ Google ]

Lastly, RI Seminar: Jonathan Hurst from Oregon State University on “Designing Robots to Walk and Run.”

Legged locomotion is a challenging physical interaction task: underactuation, unexpected impacts, and large and rapidly changing forces and velocities are commonplace. Utilizing passive hardware dynamics in tight integration with the software control, with both aspects of “behavior design” considered together as part of the overall design process, can drastically improve the performance of a machine as measured by efficiency, agility, and robustness to disturbances.

This design philosophy was recently demonstrated on ATRIAS, a bipedal spring-mass robot. The passive dynamics of the hardware match a simple biomechanically-derived spring-mass model, while the software control relies on the passive dynamics as an integrated aspect of the system behavior. ATRIAS walks using approximately 400W of power, accelerates to a run, handles large unexpected obstacles with no prior knowledge of the terrain, and is the first machine to reproduce the dynamics of a human walking gait. In this presentation, we explain our design philosophy, results with ATRIAS, current work on a successor robot Cassie, and plans for commercialization of this technology by Agility Robotics.

[ CMU RI Seminar ]

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