MIT's Mini Cheetah robot
Image: MIT 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!):

HRI 2019 – March 11-14, 2019 – Daegu, Korea
RoboSoft 2019 – April 14-18, 2019 – Daegu, Korea
NIST ARIAC Challenge – April 15-19, 2019 – 
Nîmes Robotics Festival – May 17-19, 2019 – Nîmes, France
ICRA 2019 – May 20-24, 2019 – Montreal, Canada
2nd Annual Robotics Summit & Expo – June 4-6, 2019 – Boston, Mass., USA
Energy Drone Coalition Summit – June 12-13, 2019 – Woodlands, Texas, USA
Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics – June 23-26, 2019 – London, UK

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

Impressive new video of MIT’s Mini Cheetah doing backflips, and failing to do backflips, which is even cuter.

MIT’S new mini cheetah robot is the first four-legged robot to do a backflip. At only 20 pounds the limber quadruped can bend and swing its legs wide, enabling it to walk either right side up or upside down. The robot can also trot over uneven terrain about twice as fast as an average person’s walking speed.

[ MIT ]

New from Festo is the BionicSoftHand, which takes a whole bunch of that cool soft robotics stuff that we’ve been hearing about for years and jams it all into a hand shape that looks to be pretty functional.

Unlike the human hand, the BionicSoftHand has no bones. It controls its movements via the pneumatic bellows structures in its gripper fingers. When the chambers are filled with air, the gripper fingers bend. If the air chambers are empty, the gripper fingers remain stretched. The thumb and index finger are additionally equipped with a swivel module, which allows these two gripper fingers to be moved laterally. This gives the bionic robot hand a total of twelve degrees of freedom.

The bellows in the gripper fingers are enclosed in a special 3D textile cover which is knitted from both elastic and high-strength fibres. This means that the textile can be used to exactly determine at which points the structure expands, thereby generating force, and where it is prevented from expanding.

Tricky things about soft robotics include long-term durability and getting all the sensing to work well, but Festo’s pretty good about gradually transitioning their bio-inspired lab experiments into real-world useful stuff.

[ Festo ] via [ Gizmodo ]

There’s a Cassie in Tallahassee, it’s Tallahassee Cassie.

[ FAMU ]

Blindfolded operator wears the haptic glove and the Shadow Hand mimics the movement of the operator’s hand. With touch feedback, the operator is able to identify where the ball is and successfully pick it up. Read more here:

The system integrates the pioneering technologies of the three organisations, each leaders in their categories: Shadow Robot Company (London & Madrid) in dexterous robotic hands, SynTouch (California) in tactile sensors, and HaptX (California) in realistic haptic feedback gloves.

[ Shadow ]

Here are some grippers for your grippers.

This work designs a mechanical tool for robots with 2-finger parallel grippers. It extends the function of the robotic gripper without additional requirements on tool exchangers or other actuators. The tool is general and does not require power or air supply. It could be used by any robots with 2-finger parallel grippers.

Over the years, people were developing tools for human hands. This work is developing tools for intelligent robots! It demonstrates intelligent robots can use the tool through vision and planning in narrow work spaces where they cannot reach using their hands.

[ Osaka University ]

Dog and robot, best friends.

If the description before the video wasn’t quite enough for you, you can read all about this research over at Google’s AI blog.

[ Google AI ]

I also run like this:

[ Robo-One ]

I was counting on my round doorknobs to protect me from the inevitable robot uprising, but now I’ll have to rely on glass walls and a bucket of water. Thanks, UT Austin!

Also from UT Austin: a Partnerbot with an adorable little folder satchel helping a human stay organized:

[ UT Austin ]

“And what are you working on, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems robotics researcher?”

“I’m teaching a robot to dance around me in a circle.”

[ MPI ]

It’s impossible to ever have enough of those clapping robots.

I have now had enough of those clapping robots.

[ Big Clapper ]

Clearpath’s Boxer robot delivers beer, because they’re based in Canada and are allowed to do that without a politician making a whole thing out of it.

[ Clearpath ]

Legged robots can outperform wheeled machines for most navigation tasks across unknown and rough terrains. For such tasks, visual feedback is a fundamental asset to provide robots with terrain-awareness. However, robust dynamic locomotion on difficult terrains with real-time performance guarantees remains a challenge. We present here a real-time, dynamic foothold adaptation strategy based on visual feedback. Our method adjusts the landing position of the feet in a fully reactive manner, using only on-board computers and sensors.

[ HyQ ] and [ Paper ]

Is there anything that SAKE Robotics’ triple link gripper can’t pick up? Probably, but you won’t see it in this video.

[ SAKE Robotics ]

Here’s 25 minutes of non-stop uncut uncensored hardcore robot block-tilting action.

Now that you’ve successfully made it through that, here’s what it’s all about:

[ CMU ]

A reminder that Rethink Robotics is very much still around, just much more German than it used to be.

[ Rethink Robotics ]

Seeing all these teachers working with Sphero robots in their classrooms really makes me feel like I wasted my childhood on shoebox dioramas.

Sphero Heroes is a Sphero Edu ambassador program designed to recognize and celebrate the great work of pioneer teachers around the world. These teachers are using Sphero robots to transform teaching and learning in their classrooms and beyond.

[ Sphero ]

Fleets of delivery drones haven’t started swarming over cities, but having packages and snacks delivered by drone is quickly moving from a sci-fi fantasy to workable reality. Flytrex, an Israeli startup, is one of the pioneers in this space. They currently have drone delivery operations running in Iceland and Costa Rica. Earlier this year, in coordination with the FAA, they completed their first deployment in the US, delivering burgers and soft drinks to customers at the Kings’s Walk golf course in North Dakota.

I’m not sure I would have said that having packages and snacks delivered by drone is "quickly" moving from a sci-fi fantasy to workable reality, but that’s because I hate fun.

[ DJI ]

More than 700 students from 30 schools across the United Kingdom built and flew their own quadcopters at the Raytheon UK 2018 Quadcopter Challenge. The company’s STEM ambassadors mentored teams throughout the design and build process, providing them with over 2,500 hours of hands-on instruction.

If you’re wondering where exactly Ysgol Brynhyfryd is, it’s just past Llanbedr-Dyffryn-Clwyd, but if you end up at Graigadwywynt, you’ve gone too far. #RobotWales

[ Raytheon ]

This week’s CMU RI Seminar is by CMU’s Lining Yao, on Robotic Morphing Matter.

Morphing matter harnesses the programmability in material structures and compositions to achieve transformative behaviors and integrates sensing, actuation, and computation to create adaptive and responsive material systems. These material systems can be leveraged to design soft robots, self-assembling furniture, adaptive fabrics, and self-folding foods. In this talk, Lining presents the recent works in the Morphing Matter Lab, Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and highlights several robotic morphing materials that weave advanced manufacturing with computational tools. Her team believes that the term “robotics” does not only refer to conventional robotic forms and controls but also connects to the artifacts’ ability to make decisions, adapt, move, and respond to different stimuli.

[ CMU ]

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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