Video Friday: Open Source Humanoid, HelloSpoon, and Drone Versus the Volcano

Want some robot videos? Here, take 'em. They're all yours

4 min read
Video Friday: Open Source Humanoid, HelloSpoon, and Drone Versus the Volcano

After some crazy IROS and post-IROS weeks, this week was a relatively calm one. We weren't busy dropping everything and going to talks or expos or workshops or recovering from same.

Except that one on Tuesday.

But anyway, sometimes it's just nice to be able to sit back, relax, and stay up until 5:47 a.m. putting together a good ol' Video Friday for you to enjoy.

Trossen Robotics has partnered with Intel to develop an open-source humanoid based on the Darwin-OP. Its guts have a lot of computing power, thanks to Intel's compact Edison board, and it features swappable 3D printed body shells that are just begging to be customized. And it's cool for a bunch of other reasons, too:

For US $1,600 you can pre-order what looks to be the equivalent of a beta unit, which is good for many things, including taking your friendly household hexapod for a walk:

HR-OS1 ]

 

 

Quadrotor swarm light shows.Always awesome. Now, more awesome, with the addition of programmed flight paths that create long-exposure images:

[ Spaxels ]

 

 

Robots are all about helping people, and some of the most important robots are robots that help people directly. HelloSpoon is a mealtime assistant robot that acts as a spoon to feed people who can't feed themselves very well, like children, the elderly, and the disabled. Other robots can do this, but HelloSpoon promises to be one of the most affordable:

The Indiegogo campaign runs for just a few more weeks, and you can get a HelloSpoon for you or someone who needs one for $400. (And as we've said before many times: remember that by ordering something through a crowdfunding campaign, you're supporting a project, not buying a product at a store, so you might want to check out the risks involved and also engage with the project organizers.)

[ HelloSpoon ]

 

 

I can tell you from my years of experience as a journalist: when a company has an incredibly overproduced promotional video, odds are that the thing that they're promoting doesn't actually exist yet. This seems to be the case with the Vindicatore UAV:

When (if) this thing does eventually somehow exist, it's going to be game changing, according its creators:

Our product is a modern UAV design using existing aerodynamic and mechanical design. Currently the UAV industry has attempted to use current technologies and apply them to a new problem. However what should and needs to be done is use current technology in a new and innovative fashion. We are not attempting to reinvent the wheel or change Bernoulli’s equations. What we are attempting to do is use modern methodology and technique and views the box from a different perspective without breaking principles. Our technology implies high factors of improvement in the areas of range, and maneuverability using technologies from fixed wing and rotary wing flight dynamics without the negative effects of each. For example aircrafts do not typically take off vertically, and helicopters do not distinguish between lift and thrust, which gives margins of inefficiency in ranged performance. This proposed concept compromises and improves the two traditions. The use of redundant flight vehicles and minor fabrication to existing technologies does not provide a leap in thought and human expectation. It is time for a new paradigm in flight vehicles and we are here to do that and alter the expectation of what a flight vehicle consists of.

[ Vindicatore ]

 

 

Goliath is another UAV that isn't flying yet. It's a gasoline-powered quadrotor (!) mounting a 30 hp lawn mower engine on it that develops over 250 pounds of thrust. Yeah, that's going to be absolutely terrifying.

Here's a recent bench test that didn't go so well:

[ Hackaday ]

 

 

More drones? More drones! Nixie is a prototype for a wearable selfie-taking quadrotor. I guess this would be less goofy than those selfie sticks, if it becomes real:

[ Nixie ]

 

 

And EVEN MORE DRONES. In a classic example of things that we build robots to do so that we don't have to die trying to do them ourselves, a DJI Phantom and a GoPro fly over a volcano:

And here's the behind the scenes. In their last take, the DJI Phantom returns unharmed—the GoPro not so much.

[ DJI ]

 

 

There is an entire industry of robots faking human handwriting. Why? So you'll bother to read things, and then give people money:

As with most things, this is far more complicated than it looks, and Medium has a fantastic article on all the ways that robots try to trick you.

[ Handwrytten ] via [ Medium ]

 

 

Overhead cranes are so 20th century. Need to move a train? Use a robot.

At the Siemens plant in Krefeld, Germany, the KUKA omniMove is moving railcar bodies crossways, enabling continuous production

[ Kuka omniMove ]

 

 

Aldebaran CEO Bruno Maisonnier was in Tokyo to help kick off a developers conference for Pepper, the personal robot the company developed for Softbank and which will launch next year in Japan. Maisonnier gave a talk about Aldebaran's hardware and software platforms and the future of emotional robots:

[ Aldebaran ]

 

 

To end the week, here's a segment from John Oliver's Last Week Tonight discussing drone strikes. It's funny and to the point, but if you're at work, it's probably worth plugging in a pair of headphones.

Just remember: it's not the robots, it's the people controlling the robots.

[ Last Week Tonight ]

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

“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.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

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.

Keep Reading ↓Show less