Humanoid robot Socibot gets its neck tested by Engineered Arts
Image: Engineered Arts via YouTube

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your thick-necked Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next two months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

RO-MAN 2016 – August 26-31, 2016 – New York, N.Y., USA
ECAI 2016 – August 29-2, 2016 – The Hague, Holland
NASA SRRC Level 2 – September 2-5, 2016 – Worcester, Mass., USA
ISyCoR 2016 – September 7-9, 2016 – Ostrava, Czech Republic
European Rover Challenge – September 10-13, 2016 – Podkarpackie, Poland
Gigaom Change – September 21-23, 2016 – Austin, Texas, USA
RoboBusiness – September 28-29, 2016 – San Jose, Calif., USA
HFR 2016 – September 29-30, 2016 – Genoa, Italy
ISER 2016 – October 3-6, 2016 – Tokyo, Japan
Cybathlon Symposium – October 07, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
Cybathalon 2016 – October 08, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
Robotica 2016 Brazil – October 8-12, 2016 – Recife, Brazil
ROSCon 2016 – October 8-9, 2016 – Seoul, Korea
IROS 2016 – October 9-14, 2016 – Daejon, Korea

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

Octobot is a completely soft robot with integrated fluidic logic from Harvard:

Here we report the untethered operation of a robot composed solely of soft materials. The robot is controlled with microfluidic logic that autonomously regulates fluid flow and, hence, catalytic decomposition of an on-board monopropellant fuel supply. Gas generated from the fuel decomposition inflates fluidic networks downstream of the reaction sites, resulting in actuation. The body and microfluidic logic of the robot are fabricated using moulding and soft lithography, respectively, and the pneumatic actuator networks, on-board fuel reservoirs and catalytic reaction chambers needed for movement are patterned within the body via a multi-material, embedded 3D printing technique. The fluidic and elastomeric architectures required for function span several orders of magnitude from the microscale to the macroscale. Our integrated design and rapid fabrication approach enables the programmable assembly of multiple materials within this architecture, laying the foundation for completely soft, autonomous robots.

[ Nature ] via [ Harvard ]

Atlantik-Solar is a novel kind of solar-powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle for ultra-long endurance flight applications. In 2015, it demonstrated a continuous 81-hour solar-powered flight that is the current world record in flight endurance for all aircrafts below 50kg total mass. The flight shown here, performed from July 19th - 20th 2016, represents the next major milestone: The first-ever fully-autonomous - from launch to landing - solar-powered perpetual flight with a color + thermal camera payload in a 26-hour Search-and-Rescue mission.

While the 81-hour and 28-hour endurance record flights were important milestones that demonstrated the perpetual endurance capability of AtlantikSolar, they required manual pilot control for launch and landing and did not carry any aerial imaging payload. However, the missions that our team really cares about – Search-and-Rescue missions relying on long-endurance aerial sensing to support authorities e.g. in the European refugee crisis currently unfolding over the Mediterranean Sea – require both of these elements, i.e. ease-of-use through full launch-to-land aircraft autonomy as well as significant payloads to help the rescue teams with the detection of victims on land and sea. This flight demonstrates exactly these capabilities!

[ Atlantik Solar ] via [ Robohub ]

What Video Friday is all about, right here:

[ Socibot ]

Take that, evil drone:

[ Delft Dynamics ]

During her spring internship at Fetch Robotics, Shiloh Curtis created a prototype autonomous exploration and mapping system for our Freight robots. Our Freight robots are already capable of creating detailed maps of very large buildings, but currently a human must drive the robot through the area to be mapped. Shiloh’s work is a first step towards easier robot deployments. The robot can automatically select new areas to explore and then autonomously navigate to these locations.

My senior year in high school, I was busy having blue hair and being mad at my parents for no reason. I could have used a Fetch Robotics internship. Meanwhile, Shiloh will be going to MIT this fall.

[ Fetch Robotics ]

For US $40, you can back this Kickstarter project for a robot that makes beer pong marginally more difficult:

Pongbot re-defines the game with moving cups, and LED under-lighting adds a nice techie look to the mood of the party! Players can shoot at a single cup or add a five-cup caddie. Pongbot features edge-sensing technology to keep the bot from falling over the edge of the table. There are two modes for play – in Auto-mode, the Pongbot will move and spin randomly in any direction at any time, so that the shooter never knows where it is going. In Manual mode, your opponent controls the motion with a tank-style handheld remote control. So it’s you against your friend or you against the machine!

[ Kickstarter ]

This little Jibo Olympics spot is kinda cute, unless you don’t live in the United States or Canada, in which case the fact that Jibo is expressing interest in a by-definition international event is probably really frustrating:

[ Jibo ]

Not at all shocking that Team BlackSheep handily won this Drone Champion’s League event in Europe, but the competition video is cool to watch, filmed in some hilltop ruins in Austria:

[ TBS ]

I love seeing lionfish underwater, because they’re pretty looking. Unfortunately, all of those spines keep them safe from most predators, and with nothing eating them, they’ve taken over parts of the Atlantic coast. This is a problem, and robots can help:

As much as I dislike the idea of robotic mass killing of invasive species, especially of a (let’s face it) beautiful fish, lionfish are causing all kinds of ecological destruction by living where they don’t really belong and, as the video explains, consuming an “exorbitant amount of food, more than any other potential predator out there right now.”

[ RISE ] via [ PBS ]

Humans don’t need to waste their time and skill moving stuff from place to place, which is the basis for a business model that companies like Yujin are getting into:

[ GoCart ]

Now that Parrot has turned eBee into the Disco drone, senseFly is working on something more:

You’ll know what it is as soon as we do.

[ senseFly ]

I was skeptical about Cozmo at first, but Anki’s little AI-powered bot does seem to have at least 30 seconds’ worth of personality:

I just wish they’d give us 50 seconds’ worth of personality instead of 20 seconds of an ad at the end.

[ Cozmo ]

BunnyBot is a ROS-based robot platform that can perform useful tasks using its built-in gripper and vision system. It was built by Jack Qiao for the 2016 Hackaday prize competition:

[ Hackaday Prize ]

Thanks Jack!

Hunova is a programmable robotic medical device able to support the physiotherapist in the treatment of ankle, knee, hip or spine. It is able to collect a significant amount of data on patient biomechanics, constantly monitoring his progresses and it provides direct support to the patient through a guiding robotic system, offering a wide range of rehabilitation protocols in the form of video games. It consists of two electromechanical platforms equipped with sensors, characterised by two degrees of freedom (feet and seat level). The device integrates the force sensors to adjust the interaction with the patient and a wireless sensor, located on the trunk of the subject, that allows you to check the patient’s torso movement. The exercises performed with Hunova are accompanied by interactive, graphic, videogame-like, simple applications, helping the patient to effectively complete the exercises.

[ IIT ]

KUKA regularly hosts the Innovation Award to serve both industry and academia, joining the two to help tackle some of the industry’s most challenging applications in robotic automation. For 2016, KUKA had dozens of entries from institutions around the world, resulting in six finalists. Each of the finalists tackles problems in creating flexible, easy-to-program, collaborative robotic automation solutions. All six of them were worthy entries. Come along and see how it all unfolded, and, importantly, why KUKA continues to host the awards year after year.

[ Kuka ]

Watch our second-generation gliding robotic fish, dubbed GRACE 2.0, swimming and gliding in the beautiful Higgins Lake, Michigan, all from an underwater perspective! This is part of our research collaboration with Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation Systems (GLATOS) and USGS in using these robots for tracking live fish movement.

[ Smart Microsystems Lab ]

TeleTrak is a beastly new telepresence robot designed to go everywhere normal telepresence robots can’t:

I like the fact that it comes with a stick to beat people with if they’re not respecting your authority.

[ MantaroBot ]

FIRST Robotics isn’t the only robot competition for students: Check out SeaPerch, if you’d prefer something a little more aquatic:

[ SeaPerch ]

ROS: It’s free! It’s fun! It’s awesome! And if you don’t know much about it, Brian Gerkey does and will explain it to you:

[ OSRF ]

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

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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