Video Friday: Robots Push It to the Limit, Designing a Drone, and Zoomer Kitty

The best robot videos of the week are here

4 min read

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum's Digital Innovation Director.

Video Friday: Robots Push It to the Limit, Designing a Drone, and Zoomer Kitty
Image: MIT DRC Team

Next week promises to be an amazing one for robotics. We’re getting word that there will be not one, not two, but three new robot announcements. We’ll have all the details for you here on the blog, of course. But today is Friday, and we know why you’re here. Let’s get to it.

We don’t know who made this compilation of Petman and ATLAS footage using “Push It to the Limit” from “Scarface” as soundtrack, but THANK YOU.

[ YouTube ]

Looks like the MIT DRC Team is trying to teach its ATLAS robot how to drive the Polaris utility vehicle (one of the tasks for the DRC Finals), and things are looking good—at least in simulation. The video below shows the robot sitting on the vehicle (a point-cloud model generated with nine separate scans), with inverse kinematics done with the Drake robot dynamics toolbox.

[ MIT DRC Team ]

In this video, SenseFly, a Swiss company with some impressive drone designs, describes in some detail how it developed its newest drone, eXom, which targets mapping and inspection applications.

[ SenseFly eXom ]

It’s always fun to catch up with the folks from Dash Robotics and our favorite cockroach-inspired robot.

[ CalTV Berkeley ]

Last year, a Kuka robot challenged table tennis champion Timo Boll to a fake, digitally-manipulated table tennis match. This time, a Kuka robot has challenged Boll to a fake, digitally-manipulated glass harp musical match. 

Seriously? Kuka may say that’s a “commercial” but in our view all that CGI is not making its robots look good at all. On the contrary, fakery hurts robotics by creating false expectations. And the worse part is that robots don’t need special effects to be cool. So if you ask us, we think that instead of spending all that money on fancy filmmaking and CGI, Kuka should come up with something cool and real for its robots to do. If they were looking for ideas, they could just watch some Video Fridays! See the next video, for example.

[ Kuka ]

Here’s a Kuka robot doing something cool and real. Robochop is an interactive art installation by design studio Kram/Weisshaar that lets people create unique foam designs sculpted by a robot arm.

[ Robochop ] via [ Sploid ]

We’ve seen the Empire Robotics ping-pong-ball-tossing demo before, but here’s a nice video from the NSF explaining how the company got started and where it is going. 

VERSABALL is a spherical robotic hand filled with granular material that conforms to and grips objects. At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, Empire Robotics displayed their innovative soft gripper technology by outcompeting human challengers with precision ping pong tossing. In this video, Empire Robotics co-founder John Amend explains how the technology can benefit industry. Amend is part of a multidisciplinary team of soft robotics experts, materials scientists and experienced automation engineers from diverse technology fields, including agile manufacturing automation, collaborative robotics, prosthetics and space robotics.

[ NSF ]

Every SCARA robot deserves its own custom disco floor.

Yamaha Robotics ]

It seems that every week or so we see iCub learning a new skill. This week the robot is showing off its whole-body balancing abilities when pushed on its legs and torso. This robot kid will go places.

iCub ]

Simon Curi recorded this message welcoming President Barack Obama, who visited Georgia Tech this week to talk about college affordability and the Student Aid Bill of Rights.

[ Robotics@Georgia Tech ]

DARPA recently announced the 25 teams that will participate in the DRC Finals. The recently qualified teams had to submit videos showing that their robots could perform some basic tasks. Here’s the Momaro robot from the NimbRo Rescue team.

[ NimbRo Rescue ]


The Interact Centaur [artist’s render, right] is a two-armed rover that astronauts will teleoperate as part of a European Space Agency experiment later this year. From the International Space Station, the astronauts will control the rover on Earth, using a system that will provide, for the first time, force feedback in real-time.

In preparation for his 10-day Iriss mission to the International Space Station in September this year, ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen is at ESA's technical centre, ESTEC, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, visiting the Telerobotics and Haptics Laboratory. Andreas catches up with Andre Schiele, head of the laboratory, to learn more about the robotics activities he will be participating in during his mission.

[ ESA ]

Kudos to these Canadian researchers, who are confident enough in their human-robot collaborative manufacturing prototype system that they invite two GM executives to try it for themselves. 

CHARM (Collaborative, Human-focused, Assistive Robotics for Manufacturing) project aims to advance the use of intelligent robotic assistants that can collaborate, directly and physically, with human co-workers in assembly tasks as part of the production team. We aim to advance methods for interacting with robotic assistants through developments in the perception, communication, control, and safe interaction technologies and techniques centered around supporting a worker performing a manufacturing task.

[ CARIS Lab at UBC ]

We typically end Video Friday with a lengthy lecture or highbrow video. Not today. Today we give you Zoomer Kitty.

[ FamilyGamerTV ]

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