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Video Friday: MIT Mini Cheetah, Jibo Sound Localization, and BB-8 Meets Mars Rover

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

6 min read

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum's Digital Innovation Director.

Video Friday: MIT Mini Cheetah, Jibo Sound Localization, and BB-8 Meets Mars Rover
Photo: MIT Biomimetic Robotics Lab

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

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
IEEE AIM 2016 – July 12-15, 2016 – Banff, Canada
DLMC 2016 – July 13-15, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland

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

The Super Mini Cheetah was developed at MIT as a “low-cost, easily replicable” quadruped robot platform. It is rather silly:

The MIT Super Mini Cheetah is an inexpensive and lightweight quadrupedal robot that is capable of behaviors such as running, walking, jumping and turning. The design of the Super Mini Cheetah follows many ideals of MIT Cheetah while emphasizing the use of commercial-off-the-shelf components and low-cost rapid manufacturing methods.

The low-cost, easily replicable machine is powerful enough to perform dynamic locomotion and lightweight and inexpensive enough to simplify many logistical challenges of performing safe experiments with large robots such as the MIT Cheetah. We also hope its low cost and replicability enable researchers to share hardware-implementable control implementations on replicable hardware across the world.

[ MIT ] via [ Popular Science ]

MARLO has been released from the lab!

Not bad for just an IMU and joint encoders, right?

[ Michigan Robotics ]

While it’s not the sort of robotics that we usually cover around here, this may very well end up being the most impressive robotic feat of the year:

The onboard view is worth checking out as well, if you haven’t seen it yet.

[ SpaceX ]

Yeah, okay, this is pretty cute:

One of Jibo’s most useful capabilities is that he can listen for a speaker and turn to face them, much like a person does when they hear a noise — like an opening door — and turn to face that noise in the room. In this video, Cynthia and the team test and demonstrate sound localization on early Jibo prototypes. Sound localization allows Jibo to recognize where a sound is coming from, so that he can turn and orient himself appropriately towards the person speaking. In the video, you will see Cynthia moving around the room and speaking to three Jibos who are expected to turn to face her in response.

[ Jibo ]

Singapore sure seems like a great place to be working on autonomous vehicles. Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR) has a robot car that gave a ride to their prime minister last year:

According to A*STAR, you’ll be “wanting one soon.” Forget soon, I want one NOW.

[ A*STAR ]

Thanks Han!

Considered the first computer-controlled walking robot capable of carrying a human, the Sutherland Walker was about eight feet long; a gasoline engine drove the hydraulics controlling its six legs. As it walked, it maintained its balance by always keeping three feet on the ground. The Trojan Cockroach, along with Marc Raibert’s pioneering work in Carnegie Mellon’s Leg Lab, was featured in the January 1983 issue of Scientific American.

[ CMU ]

I think BB-8 is hitting on the Curiosity rover at JPL:

[ JPL ]

RIPPA (Robot for Intelligent Perception and Precision Application) is our new production prototype robot. Mounted to the robot is VIIPA (Variable Injection Intelligent Precision Applicator) which has demonstrated autonomously shooting weeds at high speed using a directed micro-dose of liquid. The technology can be used to automatically apply the correct dose of fluid required anywhere on the farm at high speed. It will enable farmers to capitalise by minimising application input costs and improving information quality for better high level decision making.

Also, thanks to its solar cells, it can keep going indefinitely, with occasional breaks to charge itself up.

[ ACFR ]

This Lego Mindstorms robot dog is pretty cute, until it gets sick. Then things get weird.

Students created their own social robot throughout the lecture "Applied Social Robotics" at Bielefeld University. In small projects students build and implemented small agents that interact in a social manner, using "LEGO® Mindstorms". This video shows the different behaviors and movements of a robot dog. The seminar was held by the CITEC researchers Dr. Andreas Kipp and Sebastian Schneider.


There was an footrace of a humanoid robot 'HAJIME ROBOT 18' and SONY AIBO at RoboCup 2006 Germany. The maximum speed of HAJIME ROBOT 18 is 400 mm/s. The team members in Technical University Darmstadt operate the humanoid robot.

Here’s one more video from RoboCup (this one from 2009), showing one of the tallest humanoid robots I’ve ever seen:

[ YouTube ]

For about $140, you can get this tiny tank with a camera on it that you can remotely drive around your house to make sure that none of your robots have gotten loose and are driving around your house. It also comes with a charging that allows the robot to continue operating while charging, which is a neat trick. But seriously, $140? As always, keep in mind that it’s crowdfunding, not purchasing.

[ Indiegogo ]

Under development at Slant Robotics:

Jerry is a robot for everyone. He has all the capabilities needed to operate within human environments and actually do useful work. Jerry has been designed so that he can be used in nearly any environment and assigned any number of tasks. But this is pointless if he is not affordable and therefore attainable by everyone. So, Jerry will be ten times less expensive that any comparable system ($2500-$3000). Such a robot allows average people and students to get the robot that everyone imagines.

[ Slant Robotics ]

Thanks Gabe!

The Robotics and Mechatronics Center (RMC) of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) participated as team RMexplores! in the SpaceBot Camp with great success. Organized by the DLR Space Administration, the Spacebot Camp posed a challenging task: A robot had to explore a moon-like GPS-denied environment, locate and collect two objects and assemble them after transport to a third object. All tasks had to be completed by the robots as autonomous as possible and without any help from external sensors. Our Lightweight Rover Unit (LRU) was the only robot to fulfill all mandatory tasks within the original specification - in just thirty minutes, half of the given time frame, and fully autonomous.

[ DLR SpaceBotCamp ]

Episode 5 of “Moon Shot”:

When the 2011 tsunami decimated Japan’s Pacific coast, robotics Professor Kazuya Yoshida and his family were lucky to escape harm’s way. Understanding that it’s only a matter of time before an even greater natural disaster strikes, the professor wants his rovers to explore the lunar caves, which could provide a suitable location for future human settlements that will help preserve our species.

[ GLXP ]

Quartz put together this excellent video (and accompanying article) about the future of drone racing, including some of the technical challenges as well as the question of how to make something into a popular sport if it’s really not that interesting to watch in person:

[ Quartz ]

Thanks Justin!

The weird design of tensegrity robots makes them least likely to smash into a million bits when dropped from orbit:

[ NASA ]

If you missed the WeRobot conference this year (like we did), you should be very very sad (like we are). All the talks were recorded, at least, and we have the intro for you here. The rest of them you can find at the link below.

[ WeRobot 2016 ] via [ RoboHub ]

TED just posted this talk by Astro Teller, CEO of X, Alphabet’s “moonshot factory,” in which he describes how failure actually helped some of the crazy ideas they are pursuing there, including their self-driving car and electricity-generating kite projects. Another one Teller mentioned is Project Loon, which aims to provide Internet access to remote areas using balloons. It’s pretty interesting to see (starting at 11:30) all the balloon designs the X engineers have tested—round balloons, pillow-shaped baloons, balloons the size of a blue whale. They also busted lots of balloons.

[ TED ]

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