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Video Friday: Robotic Kitchen, Swarming Drones, and Robots Want Your Blood

The week's best robot videos are here. Yes, right here. Here. HERE!

5 min read

Video Friday: Robotic Kitchen, Swarming Drones, and Robots Want Your Blood
Image: Moley Robotics

Programming a robot to operate in an unstructured environment like a kitchen and teaching it to use tools designed for humans to create a gourmet meal is an absurdly difficult problem. Maybe it doesn’t have to be, though, if we cheat a bit. U.K. start-up Moley Robotics has skipped a bunch of the hard stuff by using motion capture to record a professional chef cooking dishes, and then playing back those motions in an optimized robot-friendly kitchen with a pair of robotic arms and anthropomorphic robotic hands.

Watch it create a scrumptious pot of crab bisque, and then watch some other things, all on Video Friday.

The robo-chef uses two UR5 robot arms from Universal Robots and a pair of Shadow robotic hands. Here’s the plan, according to the company:

  • In 2017 Moley will launch the consumer version of the Robotic Kitchen.
  • Sophisticated yet compact, it will feature the four key integrated kitchen items of refrigerator, oven, hob and dishwasher.
  • The kitchen is operated by its touch screen or remotely via smartphone.
  • When not in use, the robotic arms retract from view.
  • The kitchen can then be used as a beautifully designed kitchen in the normal way.
  • In robotic use, glass screens glide across the unit, enclosing it for safe use when there’s no-one home.
  • The consumer model will include the recording system so owners can save their own favourite dishes uploaded to the recipe library.

Obviously, this robot isn’t making dinner any faster than you could make dinner, but that’s really not the point: as far as I’m concerned, this robot could take 12 solid hours to cook crab bisque, because who cares? It’s doing work all by itself, and you can be doing something else while it does.

The estimated cost of about US $15,000 installed and availability in 2018 strikes me as extremely optimistic. Ludicrously optimistic, in fact. Robot arms are expensive (each UR5 currently sells for $35,000!). Dexterous robot hands are expensive. Making everything safe enough and robust enough to work reliably in a home environment is extraordinarily challenging.

The Moley website suggests that in 2017 you’ll be able to buy a stand-alone robot cooking “cell” of sorts for $72,000, which (being a constrained environment) seems barely plausible. I’d love to have a robot like this cooking me dinner, but if it’s in my kitchen in under two years for $15k, I’ll eat my hat.

After my new robot chef has made something tasty out of it.

[ Moley Robotics ]

Last week we posted a bit about ABB’s new collaborative robot, YuMi. Since it’s now been officially unveiled, ABB has released a bunch more videos, including a technical overview and some demos from Hannover Fair:

[ YuMi ]

Nervous about getting blood drawn? Good news, your worries are at an end! Now, the steely claw of a robot will pin your arm down while it finds a vein, stabs you with a needle, and feeds. Oh, and it’s also “safer” and “more efficient” than a human doing the same thing.

[ VascuLogic ] via [ NSF ]

I have to hand it to Star Wars: they’ve managed to create a real, and quite innovative, robot design with their BB-8 droid:

[ BB-8 ]

Tech United Eindhoven just got back from the RoboCup Portugal Open 2015. Spoiler alert: they won. Even if you don’t want to watch all of these match clips, the very last video (just 30 seconds long) is totally worth it.

Robot uprising initiated!

[ Tech United ] via [ RoboCup Portugal ]

Team KAIST and DRC-Hubo are working hard to prepare for the DRC Finals, and it’s looking good so far, especially that vehicle egress:


Two thousand feet below the Gulf of Mexico, a little robotic submarine named Hercules has an encounter with a sperm whale:

[ Nautilus Live ] via [ Gizmodo ]

What’s unique about Oregon State University’s ATRIAS robot is that it can make its way over rugged terrain while being bombarded by bouncy balls, all without any sort of vision or step planning: you just tell it the direction that you want it to go in, and it goes, and somehow manages to not fall over (usually):

And it can keep on going for a very, very long time:

Like every robot ever made, though, it has failures from time to time. This one looks particularly painful:


Thanks Christian!

It’s not often than we get to hear about what’s going on inside SRI, and this video from their 2015 open house is really just one big tease:

[ SRI Robotics ]

UMD’s Robo Raven has been upgraded with as many solar panels as it can handle, and while they don’t allow for continual flight, they do boost the flight time of the robot, despite the added weight and complexity:

[ UMD Robotics ]

Royal Caribbean has recently installed a duo of cocktail robots on one of their boats. I mean ships, one of their ships. Obviously, I know nothing about boats ships, and to properly write about things like floating robotic bartenders, someone should really send me on a cruise.

Anyone? Anyone…?

[ Royal Caribbean ]

I know we’ve been posting a bunch of Crabster CR200 videos lately, but this “butterfly flapping” swimming gait is particularly lovely:


And now, every action movie ever made, featuring Parrot’s MiniDrone and Rolling Sumo:

[ Parrot ]

Interactive robots that can call humans for help when they get stuck isn’t something that Microsoft (or Kuka) came up with by themselves, but seeing their implementation is interesting:

[ Microsoft ]

The full launch video for 3D Robotics’ Solo drone is impressive. Let’s hope the drone lives up to the high expectations that these baboons almost certainly have by now:

And here’s a bit of additional detail with fewer apes but more words:

[ 3D Robotics ]

Last year, MIT’s Intro to Robotics class built themselves soccer robots from scratch:

[ MIT ]

LOCUST stands for LOw-Cost Unmanned aerial vehicle Swarming Technology. It’s a prototype for a UAV that can be launched through a tube using compressed air, and the idea is that you can launch a whole bunch of them “to autonomously overwhelm an adversary.” In 2016, 30 of them will swarm in a ship-based demonstration, but for now, seeing eight at onces is pretty cool. And the launching noise is immensely satisfying:

[ ONR ]

Soccer aficionado and RoboCup champion DARwin-OP and robotics expert Alex Leonessa recently sat down with Thi Le in the NSF library to talk about robots of all kinds, and discuss how research in robotics could help do much more than just build better robots. 

[ NSF ]

Personally, I am not a fan of the term “killer robots.” I feel like it’s an unfair and unnecessary way to generate negative hype. I also disagree with many of the ways in which robots that are programmed by humans are implied to have some sort of independent desire to kill, when they’re just doing what we tell them to do.

Anyway, Motherboard has this documentary called “The Dawn of Killer Robots” that starts out with a bit of a sinister take on DRC robots and goes on from there:

[ Motherboard ]

And finally:

Bradley Nelson: Medical MicroRobotics and NanoMedicine

While the futuristic vision of micro and nanorobotics is of intelligent machines that navigate throughout our bodies searching for and destroying disease, we have a long way to go to get there. Progress is being made, though, and the past decade has seen impressive advances in the fabrication, powering, and control of tiny motile devices. Much of our work focuses on creating systems for controlling micro and nanorobots as well as pursuing applications of these devices. As systems such as these enter clinical trials, and as commercial applications of this new technology are realized, radically new therapies and uses will result that have yet to be envisioned.

[ CMU ]

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