MIT Mini-Cheetah Robot
Image: NAVER Labs/MIT Biomimetic Robotics Lab

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!):

ICCR 2020 – December 26-29, 2020 – [Online Conference]
HRI 2021 – March 8-11, 2021 – [Online Conference]
RoboSoft 2021 – April 12-16, 2021 – [Online Conference]

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

What a lovely Christmas video from Norlab.

[ Norlab ]

Thanks Francois!

MIT Mini-Cheetahs are looking for a new home. Our new cheetah cubs, born at NAVER LABS, are for the MIT Mini-Cheetah workshop. MIT professor Sangbae Kim and his research team are supporting joint research by distributing Mini-Cheetahs to researchers all around the world.

NAVER Labs ]

For several years, NVIDIA’s research teams have been working to leverage GPU technology to accelerate reinforcement learning (RL). As a result of this promising research, NVIDIA is pleased to announce a preview release of Isaac Gym – NVIDIA’s physics simulation environment for reinforcement learning research. RL-based training is now more accessible as tasks that once required thousands of CPU cores can now instead be trained using a single GPU.

[ NVIDIA ]

At SINTEF in Norway, they're working on ways of using robots to keep tabs on giant floating cages of tasty fish:

One of the tricky things about operating robots in an environment like this is localization, so SINTEF is working on a solution that uses beacons:

While that video shows a lot of simulation (because otherwise there are tons of fish in the way), we're told that the autonomous navigation has been successfully demonstrated with an ROV in "a full scale fish farm with up to 200.000 salmon swimming around the robot."

[ SINTEF ]

Thanks Eleni!

We’ve been getting ready for the snow in the most BG way possible. Wishing all of you a happy and healthy holiday season.

[ Berkshire Grey ]

ANYbotics doesn’t care what time of the year it is, so Happy Easter!

And here's a little bit about why ANYmal C looks the way it does.

[ ANYbotics ]

Robert "Buz" Chmielewski is using two modular prosthetic limbs developed by APL to feed himself dessert. Smart software puts his utensils in roughly the right spot, and then Buz uses his brain signals to cut the food with knife and fork. Once he is done cutting, the software then brings the food near his mouth, where he again uses brain signals to bring the food the last several inches to his mouth so that he can eat it.

[ JHUAPL ]

Introducing VESPER: a new military-grade small drone that is designed, sourced and built in the United States. Vesper offers a 50-minutes flight time, with speeds up to 45 mph (72 kph) and a total flight range of 25 miles (45 km). The magnetic snap-together architecture enables extremely fast transitions: the battery, props and rotor set can each be swapped in <5 seconds.

[ Vantage Robotics ]

In this video, a multi-material robot simulator is used to design a shape-changing robot, which is then transferred to physical hardware. The simulated and real robots can use shape change to switch between rolling gaits and inchworm gaits, to locomote in multiple environments.

[ Yale Faboratory ]

Get a preview of the cave environments that are being used to inspire the Final Event competition course of the DARPA Subterranean Challenge. In the Final Event, teams will deploy their robots to rapidly map, navigate, and search in competition courses that combine elements of man-made tunnel systems, urban underground, and natural cave networks!

The reason to pay attention this particular video is that it gives us some idea of what DARPA means when they say "cave."

[ SubT ]

MQ25 takes another step toward unmanned aerial refueling for the U.S. Navy. The MQ-25 test asset has flown for the first time with an aerial refueling pod containing the hose and basket that will make it an aerial refueler.

[ Boeing ]

We present a unified model-based and data-driven approach for quadrupedal planning and control to achieve dynamic locomotion over uneven terrain. We utilize on-board proprioceptive and exteroceptive feedback to map sensory information and desired base velocity commands into footstep plans using a reinforcement learning (RL) policy trained in simulation over a wide range of procedurally generated terrains.

[ DRS ]

The video shows the results of the German research project RoPHa. Within the project, the partners developed technologies for two application scenarios with the service robot Care-O-bot 4 in order to support people in need of help when eating.

[ RoPHa Project ]

Thanks Jenny!

This looks like it would be fun, if you are a crazy person.

[ Team BlackSheep ]

Robot accuracy is the limiting factor in many industrial applications. Manufacturers often only specify the pose repeatability values of their robotic systems. Fraunhofer IPA has set up a testing environment for automated measuring of accuracy performance criteria of industrial robots. Following the procedures defined in norm ISO 9283 allows generating reliable and repeatable results. They can be the basis for targeted measures increasing the robotic system’s accuracy.

[ Fraunhofer ]

Thanks Jenny!

The IEEE Women in Engineering - Robotics and Automation Society (WIE-RAS) hosted an online panel on best practices for teaching robotics. The diverse panel boasts experts in robotics education from a variety of disciplines, institutions, and areas of expertise.

[ IEEE RAS ]

Northwestern researchers have developed a first-of-its-kind soft, aquatic robot that is powered by light and rotating magnetic fields. These life-like robotic materials could someday be used as "smart" microscopic systems for production of fuels and drugs, environmental cleanup or transformative medical procedures.

[ Northwestern ]

Tech United Eindhoven's soccer robots now have eight wheels instead of four wheels, making them tweleve times better, if my math is right.

[ TU Eindhoven ]

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
LightGreen

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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