Video Friday: Robot Playdate, Big Drone, and Self-Driving Car in Snow

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.

Agility Robotics' Cassie and Boston Dynamics' Spot have a robot playdate at Playground Global
Image: Agility Robotics 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!):

US 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

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

Agility Robotics had a good week. And here’s one of their Cassies on a playdate with a four-legged friend. Aww.

Cassie had a meet-and-greet with a four-legged friend during one of our visits to Playground.

[ Agility Robotics ]

Aerones is a company that makes drones. Big drones. Really big drones.

In case you can’t tell how big that drone is, here it is lifting a person out of a boat:

[ Aerones ] via [ TechCrunch ]

It’s the beginning of the end for humans.

And the end of the beginning for robots.

Or something.

Kinova ]

Thanks, François!

Come Spring 2018, Sandia National Laboratories hosts the Western National Robot Rodeo and Capability Exercise (WNRR & CAPEX) at its Robotic Vehicle Range in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Bomb squads from across the country gather to fire up their robots and sharpen their bomb-neutralizing skills, competing in this tough, multi-faceted training event. WNRR training scenarios mimic the dangerous situations occurring every day in the real world which helps prepare these dedicated specialists for when it all goes down on their watch.

Sandia ]

Researchers from ETH Zurich are using a new method for digital timber construction in a real project for the first time. The load-bearing timber modules, which are prefabricated by robots, will be assembled on the top two floors at the DFAB HOUSE construction site. The Spatial Timber Assemblies project combines architecture with robotics and craftsmanship.

ETH Zurich ]

Torc’s self-driving car,> with a safety driver who appears to be very alert, drives around Virginia in the snow:

The Torc self-driving car, Asimov, navigates the beautiful snow-covered town of Blacksburg, Virginia. We encounter snow plow trucks, pedestrians, and bicyclists on the road and safely maneuver through these complex traffic scenarios while navigating snow-covered roads. The snow sometimes reduces visibility or lane lines, but our system overcomes these obstacles to allow for a smooth drive in the winter weather.

Torc Robotics ]

From MIT in 1982:

How do I get my Google assistant to talk to me in that voice?

MIT Media Lab ]

From the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology:

A sneak peek of Zachary Robert Kondak’s new song, as part of our new rock-opera composed and performed by both human, robots and cyborgs. Zach may be onto something here. With Shimon Robot, Richard Savery and Jason Barnes.

[ GTCMT ] via [ TechCrunch ]

Watching robots precisely picking and placing is pleasing:

[ Fanuc ]

Hinamitetu unveils another gymnastics robot, performing a routine on the uneven bars.

[ YouTube ]

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) are developing unmanned aerial system (UAS) technology to fly into the containment vessels of the damaged units at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station and assess conditions. During the project, the SwRI-UPenn team demonstrated that the UAS was capable of autonomously navigating in a confined, GPS-denied environment, avoiding obstacles along the flight path, and surviving the radiation levels expected during a mission inside of the units at Fukushima Daiichi.

[ SwRI ]

This video shows the integration of a whole-body inverse kinematics scheme, based on the OpenSoT framework, and a compliant feedback stabilizer that measures the ZMP with the force/torque sensors at the feet. We show our implementation for iCub, in the YARP framework. The robot is position controlled, yet able to compensate for external forces/perturbations. Control is at 100Hz. This is a joint work between the team LARSEN in Inria Nancy and the Humanoid & Human-centered mechatronics lab in IIT.


Thanks, Serena!

Here’s some nice work from Jiaji Zhou, a CMU PhD student, showing how a robot arm can use an external surface (like a table) as another finger of sorts to help it manipulate objects. The project was part of his internship at the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) with Siyuan Feng and Russ Tedrake.

[ TRI ]

Cooking drones with microwaves is not quite as cool as zapping them with lasers, unfortunately.

From Sept. 30-Oct. 3, 2013, Raytheon’s high-power microwave shot down multiple tier one and tier two drones during a U.S. Army live fire exercise at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The high-power microwave uses speed-of-light technology to disrupt and down unmanned aircraft systems. In this video, the system shoots down a Flanker tier one UAS.

Raytheon ]

A literal inside look at some of the robots that Engineered Arts has been designing for Madame Tussaud’s:

Engineered Arts ]

We try to keep an eye on the collaborative robots market, but somehow we missed this announcement: Stäubli launched its TX2 line of collaborative robots to the North American market at Automate last year. You can see the TX2 (covered in touch-sensitive soft pads) in the beginning of this video:

Stäubli TX2 ]

An overview of using a Sawyer collaborative robot for research and education, featuring Ian McMahon, lead software developer for research and education products at Rethink.

[ Rethink Robotics ]

For the Demonstration Mission Space a dedicated scenario from the ROBEX lunar scientists was chosen. The scenario describes the installation of an active seismic network (ASN) on the Moon’s surface. Main focus here is the measurement of the internal structure and the composition of the upper layer, the lunar regolith. Other questions are the existence and composition of a central core of the Moon and if there is any seismic activity. The seismometers are planned to be transported by a rover and put down on surface by means of a robotic arm.


Drone Delivery Canada USA Testing Program commenced March 5th, 2018 at the Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York - USA. These flights symbolize the start of Drone Delivery Canada’s International testing initiatives, starting with the United States of America.

[ Drone Delivery Canada ]

In this week’s episode of Robots in Depth, Per talks with David Johan Christensen from Shape Robotics.

David Johan Christensen talks about modular robotics and the Fable system. David Johan started early in robotics, getting involved already in high school. At university he found the EU project Hydra, that introduced him to modular robotics. In the Hydra project he participated in developing, among other things, the Atron self-reconfiguring modular robotics system. We also hear how the Fable system emerged from co-operating with Lego and how it’s used all the way from 4th grade to university level brain research.

[ Robots in Depth ]

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