Video Friday: Robot Barber, Untethered iCub, and Aibo's Best Friend

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

5 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum's Digital Innovation Director.

Aibo and his best friend
Image: Robotstart via YouTube

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!):

U.S. National Robotics Week – April 7-17, 2018 – United States
Xconomy Robo Madness – April 12, 2018 – Bedford, Mass., USA
NASA Swarmathon – April 17-19, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA
RoboSoft 2018 – April 24-28, 2018 – Livorno, Italy
ICARSC 2018 – April 25-27, 2018 – Torres Vedras, Portugal
NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 14-18, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA
ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia
RSS 2018 – June 26-30, 2018 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA
Ubiquitous Robots 2018 – June 27-30, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii
MARSS 2018 – July 4-8, 2018 – Nagoya, Japan

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

Only try this at home on April 1.

You might remember the Flowbee hair cutting vacuum device from commercials back in the late 1980s. We’ve come up with a new concept to disrupt the hair styling market once again, this time through collaborative robots. With Snips by Sawyer barbershops will never be the same.

[ Rethink Robotics ]

Since April 1 was a bit sparse this year, here’s an old favorite:

Willow Garage ]

Opticontrol, a robotics company based in the Czech Republic, comes to the rescue of a damsel in distress on Easter:

In case you found some parts of that video a little bit confusing, here’s an explaination from a Czech newspaper:

For many women in the Czech Republic, the Easter season, known as Velikonoce, is not their favorite time. Easter Monday is the national holiday, and traditionally it is a time when women get whipped with a braided rod of willow called a pomlázka. The name comes from pomladit, meaning “to make younger” and how it got tied up with Easter isn’t very clear.

Traditionally, boys in villages go around from door to door on Easter Monday to slap women, even strangers, on the legs, thighs or buttocks with the whip. The victim is supposed to give the boy an egg or some chocolate. The women who are hit are supposed to get a year of health, fertility and beauty. Some older women can tell you that when they were younger they did get a substantial whipping at the hands of neighborhood boys, but now it has become much more symbolic in the places where it is practiced.

Happy Easter!

[ Opticontrol ]

Thanks Jakub!

How does a 2-year old boy Grant Gross, first time egg hunter, fair against Cataglyphis, the award-winning sample return robot? Total dominance!


Happy Easter from MekaMon! Remember Easter Egg hunt defeat should always be met with grace!

Mekamon ]

This video shows the latest results in iCub whole-body control achieved by the Dynamic Interaction Control lab at the Italian Institute of Technology. In particular, the iCub balancing capabilities have been improved considerably, and the reactive quadratic-programming based controller ensures balance and safe interaction. Also, iCub walking capabilities have been implemented by means of on-line reactive model-predictive-control algorithms.

Really great to see a walking, untethered iCub.


And now, this.

[ Robotstart ]

The University Rover Challenge (URC) is the world’s premier robotics competition for college students. Held annually in the desert of southern Utah in the United States, URC challenges student teams to design and build the next generation of Mars rovers that will one day work alongside astronauts exploring the Red Planet. From a record field of 95 teams, URC has announced the 36 teams from 10 countries who have been selected to compete May 31 - June 2 at the Mars Desert Research Station.


Autonomous sumo is one of my favorite robot combat events, because of how much personality these little bots have. This footage is from the 29th Robot Sumo Challenge, held in Japan.

If you’re just going to watch a little bit, at least make it to the battle at 1:28.

Robot Sumo Japan ]

Asimo isn’t quite nimble enough to jump rope itself, but it can help out while some Japanese researchers do it:

Here are a bunch more videos of Asimo, showing various prototypes and commercial footage from throughout the years:

[ Honda Asimo ]

A new video from the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots: “No country would be safe from fully autonomous weapons.”

While this video is not quite as sensationalist as “Slaughterbots,” it’s still surprising to see critics of autonomous weapons turning to scary, violent imagery rather than trying to communicate useful information to help people make informed decisions about this issue. Is fearmongering really necessary?

[ Campaign to Stop Killer Robots ]

What if there was a robot car that enabled blind people to drive? Or a robot designed to put out fires on ships? A robot that plays soccer? Stamps its feet when it’s angry or dances when it’s happy? These are all real projects designed in UCLA’s Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory by Professor Dennis Hong and his intrepid team of undergraduate and graduate students.

“I tell the students to break the robot.”

I love this, although Professor Hong should also tell the students to break the robot on video, and then send it to us, because it’s funny to watch.

[ RoMeLa ]

An update on NASA’s Mars missions, which at this point are all about robots:

[ NASA ]

This RoboThespian test sequence (on 8x speed) is begging for a soundtrack.

[ Engineered Arts ]

Oh look, it’s slightly more robots dancing simultaneously than the last time we saw lots of robots dancing simultaneously.

[ Guiness ]

Marc Raibert gives lots of excellent talks, but we particularly love watching the more technical ones, full of details about how Boston Dynamics does such amazing things. This particular talk was presented as part of MIT’s Artificial General Intelligence course earlier this year, and it’s definitely worth your time, including the Q&A at the end where Marc mentions (among other things) that they’ll be announcing pricing for Spot Mini later this year. And yes, there’s some video that we haven’t seen before—it’s not the greatest quality, but you won’t be disappointed.

Marc also brought along a Spot Mini, which failed to crush an iPhone X, sadly.

[ Boston Dynamics ] via [ MIT 6.S099 ]

Gail Orenstein Gail has been a photographer for 23 years. Her drone work from Iraq, Bangladesh and Nepal has be syndicated around the world. In this webinar presentation, she shares her first-hand insights on balancing the powers and dangers of using small drones in high-risk areas are particularly instructive regardless of whether you work in disaster response, sustainable development, public health, environmental protection or climate change resilience.

[ WeRobotics ]

In this week’s episode of Robots in Depth, Per interviews Linda Thayer from Finnegan, about how patents and IP apply to robotics.

Linda Thayer talks about how to how to apply for, maintain and use patents. Linda tells us about the benefits of getting in touch with a patent attorney early in the innovation process. She then walks us through the process of applying for a patent, key dates and important steps. We also get to hear about defending your patent and international patents.

[ Robots in Depth ]

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