Video Friday: Quadrotor Acrobatics, Telerobotic Pitcher, and RoboRoach

Flying robots and cybernetic bugs invade Video Friday

3 min read
Video Friday: Quadrotor Acrobatics, Telerobotic Pitcher, and RoboRoach

If you're wondering what the next trend in robotics is, look no farther than Video Friday to see what kinds of robots consistently end up in the news from week to week. Here's a hint: lately, it's been quadrotors. But as always, we have lots of other robots for you too. Lots of them.

Those cool little Linkbots from Barobo are sooo close to making it on Kickstarter. As of right now, they're just a little bit over 80 percent of the way to victory. To sweeten the deal, they've posted some new videos of the Linkbots doing cool stuff, including cracking locks and making a fantastic cat toy:

A mere $140 gets you a Linkbot of your own.

[ Kickstarter ]

Robots are just way better at some things, and painting aircraft wings turns out to be one of those things. Boeing's new painting robots take a process that lasted hours and did it in minutes, with greater accuracy and higher quality.

Incidentally, Boeing gives fantastic tours of its Everett, Washington production plant, which is well worth a trip if you ever find yourself in Seattle.

ETH Zurich knows where it's at when it comes to flying machines. These next two videos popped up last week, and it's probably not a coincidence that Raffaello D'Andrea gave a talk at TED Global (which we've got for you later on). The first one features the Distributed Flying Array:

And then they've got a new quadrotor dance number:

Via [ Robohub ]

The embedded systems class at UC Berkeley took a Clearpath Robotics Husky UGV and managed to get it to operate elevators with Android control:

Via [ Clearpath Robotics ]

Have an illness that prevents you from throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game? Google's got your back. And so does a robot.

"The first telerobotic pitch in major league history!" And hopefully, not the last.

[ Google ]

With the right sensor, mapping areas and making models really can be just as simple as waving a Kinect around:

Now get my TurtleBot to do this. Please.

[ Willow Garage ]

Well, this is a terrible idea:


Another worthy Kickstarter that absolutely deserves your support is RoboRoach, a project which lets you hack into a live cockroach and turn it into a cyborg that you can steer with your phone over Bluetooth. Yeah, it's just about exactly as awesome as you're probably thinking it is:

$100 will get you a kit, and for $50 more, the kit will include a dozen happy little cockroaches. And we should note that they really will be happy, at least as long as you feed them and give them toys and stuff: the, um, modifications that you make to the little guys aren't harmful, and the electrical impulses that steer them aren't harmful either.

[ Kickstarter ] via [ Backyard Brains ]

Students from Northeastern have developed a quadrotor called TRAQ, an autonomous quadrotor that uses a unique four-​​element antenna array to locate and nav­i­gate to the source of a radio signal.

Also, more drones should be built partially out of Tupperware.

[ Northeastern ]

RoboCup 2013 starts later this month, and here's a look back at the adult size competition from last year:

[ RoboCup ]

It's another incredible quadrotor video from Team Blacksheep, this time exploring Venice:

[ Team Blacksheep ]

And here's what happens when the police notice you flying a quadrotor around and take issue with it, at least in Turkey:

The crash destroyed the memory card, but you can see footage from an earlier flight here. And incidentally, I'm pretty sure the quadrotor in question is a DJI Phantom.

Via [ Gizmodo ]

This has never happened before, not until this week, but yes, we have back to back Curiosity updates from NASA! WOW!

[ MSL ]

How about we wrap up the week with a pair of TED Talks, from Daniel Suarez on autonomous weapons of war, and from Raffaello D'Andrea on the astounding athletic power of quadrotors:

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

“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.

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