Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your 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, South Korea

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

Well, you can go ahead and add foosball to the list of things that humans won't have a chance at once robots get involved:

I like the idea of a robot on robot foosball match, although I would guess that it would be far too fast for a human to actually enjoy watching.

[ EPFL ]

The project Europa-Explorer is a pilot survey for future missions to Jupiter's moon Europa. It focuses on the aspect of navigation of robotic systems on and especially under the ice-shield of Europa. Below the surface an ocean comprised of liquid water is expected. After penetration of the ice-shield an exploration can be conducted. A possible mission scenario is drafted, which covers all aspects of an exploration from the time of landing until the transmission of the survey results. In order to demonstrate the feasibility of this scenario, an experimental test platform will be constructed, which is able to be used in an analog mission at a suitable test site on earth. The results of this research can be used for planning purposes of real missions to Europa.

Here's the scenario:

And here's the real thing:

I don't know why none of these videos show the aliens, because there are definitely going to be aliens.

[ DFKI ]

Ford today announces its intent to have a high-volume, fully autonomous SAE level 4-capable vehicle in commercial operation in 2021 in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service.

Usually, "in five years" is code for "sometime eventually," but we'll try to be more optimistic on this one.

[ Ford ]

CNN has launched an aerial imagery and reporting unit, called CNNAir, that will utilize unmanned aerial systems to fully integrate aerial imagery and reporting across all CNN networks and platforms.

So, uh, did you get them some aid, CNN? Or what?

[ CNN ]

It seems like interns at Fetch Robotics actually end up doing useful stuff, as opposed to just making sure there's always snacks in the fridge.

I assume they also make sure there's always snacks in the fridge.

[ Fetch Robotics ]

Yeah it kind of seems like snack availability is a big deal at Fetch:

Recently, Fetch Robotics held our second annual company-wide hackathon. Our goal with these events is to bring everyone together to build something cool using our product and learn as much as possible in the process.

It was determined that the focus of the day would be to build “snackbot”. A freight robot with our new HMIshelf would be loaded with snacks, and could be called to any location in the building to deliver these much needed snacks to our team. To prepare for the event, we purchased a small fridge, a pile of Amazon Dash buttons, and a boatload of snacks (for testing purposes).

There were a few ground rules for the day. First, our fetchcore server was completely locked down. Nobody was allowed to modify the codebase, and we would have to build our entire snack solution using only the existing APIs that we had built for our customers. Second, everyone participated — that means production folks, sales associates, and more — not just engineering! Third, the event had a time limit, snack delivery had to commence before 5pm.

[ Fetch Robotics ]

Agricultural robots don't get much more minimalist than this:

[ ACFR ]

Don't try this at home, especially not if you want nicely sliced potatoes:

[ Sh***y Engineer ]

These are the latest version of Sawyer's eyes, from Rethink Robotics. The eyes will follow your mouse cursor around, try it!

Try harder.

[ Sawyer ]

Have a Robotiq 2-finger gripper and camera on a UR arm and more free time than you know what to do with? Here's a simple challenge from Robotiq:

[ Robotiq ]

Dextre will be helping astronauts install a docking adapter on the ISS. If it all goes well, it should look like this, except 100% less CGI:

Not shown is Dextre high-fiving the astronaut at the end.

[ Dextre ]

This little Cozmo spot is cute, but kill the video after 0:25, because the entire second half of it (!) is just an ad card.

Only one animal was slightly harmed in the making of this video.

[ Cozmo ]

Another charmingly ye olde robot video from Georgia Tech:

This video showcases the Transition Research Corporation’s (TRC) LabMate robot system with its sonar-based localization systems. Joseph F. Engelberger, considered by many to be the “Father of Robotics,” founded TRC. Engelberger wrote a book about service robotics in 1969, and TRC was part of his vision to deliver a generation of service robots. The LabMate platform is a differential drive robot used by many U.S. laboratories for early research in mobile robotics. Additionally, the LabMate platform was also used as the base for the HelpMate platform for hospital logistics, a system that was delivered to a number of hospitals. This video presents both the basis of the platform and the associated system for ultrasonic based perception for mapping and collision avoidance.

[ Georgia Tech ]

The AI Now Symposium was held in NYC back in July. You know it's a Serious Conference because it describes what it's about with Lots of Big Words and Capital Letters: "The Social and Economic Implications of Artificial Intelligence Technologies in the Near-Term." If you can get past that, here's the intro, along with a playlist for most of the rest of the talks:

And if you've got a bit more time, here's a panel featuring Yann LeCun, Cynthia Breazeal, and Genevieve Bell:

[ AI Now ]

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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