Acrobat Mattias Lindström interacts with an industrial robot during the performance of “The Last Fish.”
Acrobat Mattias Lindström interacts with an industrial robot during the performance of “The Last Fish.”
Photo: Klara G/Östgötateatern

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 few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

AWS Cloud Robotics Summit – August 18-19, 2020 – [Online Conference]
CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
ICUAS 2020 – September 1-4, 2020 – Athens, Greece
ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan
IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – Las Vegas, Nevada
ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colorado

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

Here are some professional circus artists messing around with an industrial robot for fun, like you do.

The acrobats are part of Östgötateatern, a Swedish theatre group, and the chair bit got turned into its own act, called “The Last Fish.” But apparently the Swedish Work Environment Authority didn’t like that an industrial robot—a large ABB robotic arm—was being used in an artistic performance, arguing that the same safety measures that apply in a factory setting would apply on stage. In other words, the robot had to operate inside a protective cage and humans could not physically interact with it.

When told that their robot had to be removed, the acrobats went to court. And won! At least that’s what we understand from this Swedish press release. The court in Linköping, in southern Sweden, ruled that the safety measures taken by the theater had been sufficient. The group had worked with a local robotics firm, Dyno Robotics, to program the manipulator and learn how to interact with it as safely as possible. The robot—which the acrobats say is the eighth member of their troupe—will now be allowed to return.

Östgötateatern ]

Houston Mechathronics’ Aquanautcontinues to be awesome, even in the middle of a pandemic. It’s taken the big step (big swim?) out of NASA’s swimming pool and into open water.

[ HMI ]

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook AI Research have created a navigation system for robots powered by common sense. The technique uses machine learning to teach robots how to recognize objects and understand where they’re likely to be found in house. The result allows the machines to search more strategically.

[ CMU ]

Cassie manages 2.1 m/s, which is uncomfortably fast in a couple of different ways.

Next, untethered. After that, running!

[ Michigan Robotics ]

Engineers at Caltech have designed a new data-driven method to control the movement of multiple robots through cluttered, unmapped spaces, so they do not run into one another.

Multi-robot motion coordination is a fundamental robotics problem with wide-ranging applications that range from urban search and rescue to the control of fleets of self-driving cars to formation-flying in cluttered environments. Two key challenges make multi-robot coordination difficult: first, robots moving in new environments must make split-second decisions about their trajectories despite having incomplete data about their future path; second, the presence of larger numbers of robots in an environment makes their interactions increasingly complex (and more prone to collisions).

To overcome these challenges, Soon-Jo Chung, Bren Professor of Aerospace, and Yisong Yue, professor of computing and mathematical sciences, along with Caltech graduate student Benjamin Rivière (MS ’18), postdoctoral scholar Wolfgang Hönig, and graduate student Guanya Shi, developed a multi-robot motion-planning algorithm called "Global-to-Local Safe Autonomy Synthesis," or GLAS, which imitates a complete-information planner with only local information, and "Neural-Swarm," a swarm-tracking controller augmented to learn complex aerodynamic interactions in close-proximity flight.

[ Caltech ]

Fetch RoboticsFreight robot is now hauling around pulsed xenon UV lamps to autonomously disinfect spaces with UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C, all at the same time.

[ SmartGuard UV ]

When you’re a vertically symmetrical quadruped robot, there is no upside-down.

[ Ghost Robotics ]

In the virtual world, the objects you pick up do not exist: you can see that cup or pen, but it does not feel like you’re touching them. That presented a challenge to EPFL professor Herbert Shea. Drawing on his extensive experience with silicone-based muscles and motors, Shea wanted to find a way to make virtual objects feel real. “With my team, we’ve created very small, thin and fast actuators,” explains Shea. “They are millimeter-sized capsules that use electrostatic energy to inflate and deflate.” The capsules have an outer insulating membrane made of silicone enclosing an inner pocket filled with oil. Each bubble is surrounded by four electrodes, that can close like a zipper. When a voltage is applied, the electrodes are pulled together, causing the center of the capsule to swell like a blister. It is an ingenious system because the capsules, known as HAXELs, can move not only up and down, but also side to side and around in a circle. “When they are placed under your fingers, it feels as though you are touching a range of different objects,” says Shea.

[ EPFL ]

Through the simple trick of reversing motors on impact, a quadrotor can land much more reliably on slopes.

[ Sherbrooke ]

Turtlebot delivers candy at Harvard.

I <3 Turtlebot SO MUCH

[ Harvard ]

Traditional drone controllers are a little bit counterintuitive, because there’s one stick that’s forwards and backwards and another stick that’s up and down but they’re both moving on the same axis. How does that make sense?! Here’s a remote that gives you actual z-axis control instead.

[ Fenics ]

Thanks Ashley!

Lio is a mobile robot platform with a multifunctional arm explicitly designed for human-robot interaction and personal care assistant tasks. The robot has already been deployed in several health care facilities, where it is functioning autonomously, assisting staff and patients on an everyday basis.

[ F&P Robotics ]

Video shows a ground vehicle autonomously exploring and mapping a multi-storage garage building and a connected patio on Carnegie Mellon University campus. The vehicle runs onboard state estimation and mapping leveraging range, vision, and inertial sensing, local planning for collision avoidance, and terrain analysis. All processing is real-time and no post-processing involved. The vehicle drives at 2m/s through the exploration run. This work is dedicated to DARPA Subterranean Challange.

[ CMU ]

Raytheon UK’s flagship STEM programme, the Quadcopter Challenge, gives 14-15 year olds the chance to participate in a hands-on, STEM-based engineering challenge to build a fully operational quadcopter. Each team is provided with an identical kit of parts, tools and instructions to build and customise their quadcopter, whilst Raytheon UK STEM Ambassadors provide mentoring, technical support and deliver bite-size learning modules to support the build.

[ Raytheon ]

A video on some of the research work that is being carried out at The Australian Centre for Field Robotics, University of Sydney.

[ University of Sydney ]

Jeannette Bohg, assistant professor of computer science at Stanford University, gave one of the Early Career Award Keynotes at RSS 2020.

[ RSS 2020 ]

Adam Savage remembers Grant Imahara.

[ Tested ]

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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