Video Friday: NASA Sending Robots to Venus

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

3 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

NASA Venus Mosaic
Image: NASA

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers.

It’s ICRA this week, but since the full proceedings are not yet available, we’re going to wait until we can access everything to cover the conference properly. Or, as properly as we can not being in Xi’an right now. 

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!):

RoboCup 2021 – June 22-28, 2021 – [Online Event]
RSS 2021 – July 12-16, 2021 – [Online Event]
Humanoids 2020 – July 19-21, 2021 – [Online Event]
DARPA SubT Finals – September 21-23, 2021 – Louisville, KY, USA
WeRobot 2021 – September 23-25, 2021 – Coral Gables, FL, USA
IROS 2021 – September 27-1, 2021 – [Online Event]
ROSCon 2021 – October 21-23, 2021 – New Orleans, LA, USA

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

NASA has selected the DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble-gases, Chemistry and Imaging +) mission as part of its Discovery program, and it will be the first spacecraft to enter the Venus atmosphere since NASA’s Pioneer Venus in 1978 and USSR’s Vega in 1985.

The mission, Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus, will consist of a spacecraft and a probe. The spacecraft will track motions of the clouds and map surface composition by measuring heat emission from Venus’ surface that escapes to space through the massive atmosphere. The probe will descend through the atmosphere, sampling its chemistry as well as the temperature, pressure, and winds. The probe will also take the first high-resolution images of Alpha Regio, an ancient highland twice the size of Texas with rugged mountains, looking for evidence that past crustal water influenced surface materials.

Launch is targeted for FY2030.

[ NASA ]

Skydio has officially launched their 3D Scan software, turning our favorite fully autonomous drone into a reality capture system.

Skydio held a launch event at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and the keynote is online; it's actually a fairly interesting 20 minutes with some cool rockets thrown in for good measure.

[ Skydio ]

Space robotics is a key technology for space exploration and an enabling factor for future missions, both scientific and commercial. Underwater tests are a valuable tool for validating robotic technologies for space. In DFKI’s test basin, even large robots can be tested in simulated micro-gravity with mostly unrestricted range of motion.

[ DFKI ]

The Harvard Microrobotics Lab has developed a soft robotic hand with dexterous soft fingers capable of some impressive in-hand manipulation, starting (obviously) with a head of broccoli.

Training soft robots in simulation has been a bit of a challenge, but the researchers developed their own simulation framework that matches the real world pretty closely:

The simulation framework is avilable to download and use, and you can do some nutty things with it, like simulating tentacle basketball:

I’d pay to watch that IRL.

[ Paper ] via [ Harvard ]

Using the navigation cameras on its mast, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover this movie of clouds just after sunset on March 28, 2021, the 3,072nd so, or Martian day, of the mission. These noctilucent, or twilight clouds, are made of water ice; ice crystals reflect the setting sun, allowing the detail in each cloud to be seen more easily.

[ JPL ]

Genesis Robotics is working on something, and that's all we know.

[ Genesis Robotics ]

To further improve the autonomous capabilities of future space robots and to advance European efforts in this field, the European Union funded the ADE project, which was completed recently in Wulsbüttel near Bremen. There, the rover "SherpaTT" of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) managed to autonomously cover a distance of 500 meters in less than three hours thanks to the successful collaboration of 14 European partners.

[ DFKI ]

For $6.50, a NEXTAGE robot will make an optimized coffee for you. In Japan, of course.

[ Impress ]

Things I’m glad a robot is doing so that I don’t have to: dross skimming.

[ Fanuc ]

Today, anyone can hail a ride to experience the Waymo Driver with our fully autonomous ride-hailing service, Waymo One. Riders Ben and Ida share their experience on one of their recent multi-stop rides. Watch as they take us along for a ride.

[ Waymo ]

The IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Town Hall 2021 featured discussion around Diversity & Inclusion, RAS CARES committee & Code of Conduct, Gender Diversity, and the Developing Country Faculty Engagement Program.


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