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Video Friday: Robot Tentacle, Mars Flyer, and Destructive Drone Competition

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.

Robotic tentacle
Image: Festo 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 two months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

WeRobot 2017 – March 31-1, 2017 – New Haven, Conn., USA
Automate – April 3-3, 2017 – Chicago, Ill., USA
ITU Robot Olympics – April 7-9, 2017 – Istanbul, Turkey
ROS Industrial Consortium – April 07, 2017 – Chicago, Ill., USA
U.S. National Robotics Week – April 8-16, 2017 – USA
NASA Swarmathon – April 18-20, 2017 – NASA KSC, Florida, USA
RoboBusiness Europe – April 20-21, 2017 – Delft, Netherlands
RoboGames 2017 – April 21-23, 2017 – Pleasanton, Calif., USA
ICARSC – April 26-30, 2017 – Coimbra, Portugal
AUVSI Xponential – May 8-11, 2017 – Dallas, Texas, USA
AAMAS 2017 – May 8-12, 2017 – Sao Paulo, Brazil
Austech – May 9-12, 2017 – Melbourne, Australia
Innorobo – May 16-18, 2017 – Paris, France
NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 22-26, 2017 – NASA KSC, Fla., USA

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

Festo’s Bionic Learning Network prototypes for this year are a bit less crazy than we’re used to, but they’re also far more practical, with immediate potential applications, especially in collaborative robotics:

Festo presents a bionic gripper called the OctopusGripper, which is derived from an octopus tentacle. Not only can the flexible silicone structure grip softly and securely – it also fulfils the strict criteria of a soft robotics component.

Free-moving, intuitive to operate and safe when interacting with the user: the pneumatic lightweight robot is based on the human arm and has great potential as a sensitive helper for human–robot collaboration in the future.

From sensitive to powerful – the pneumatic lightweight robot can fluently perform the natural movements of an elephant’s trunk and an octopus’s tentacle. The special 3D textile knitted fabric around the bellows structures gives the kinematics tremendous power potential.

[ Festo ]

Imagine being able to survey more parts of another planet like Mars than ever before. Orbiters and rovers have been successful so far but engineers keep looking for new ways to gather information. One way may be by using an unmanned aerial vehicle like this Mars Flyer concept.

NASA has also been experimenting with a small drone helicopter for Mars rovers. While certainly very cool, these are unfortunately usually the first things that get axed for budget, time, or viability.

[ NASA Langley ]

I kinda do this all the time:

[ YouTube ] via [ Gizmodo ]

A little bit overboard on the slow motion oversaturated crashing, but I like the idea of a destructive drone competition that encourages some amount of autonomy:

In a real life video game of sorts, four teams will battle simultaneously. They can use as many drones as they like, but each team is only allowed one FPV video stream to their drones. This means, in practice, only one drone can be tele-operated per team. But, teams may switch between drones or create autonomous drones, and anything in between. As long as it flies.

DroneClash ] via [ DIY Drones ]

Thanks once again to the Takanishi Lab for developing whatever these things are:

[ Takanishi Lab ]

Since 2015, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has been developing new technologies for use on future missions to ocean worlds. That includes a subsurface probe that could burrow through miles of ice, taking samples along the way; robotic arms that unfold to reach faraway objects; and a projectile launcher for even more distant samples.

“In the future, we want to answer the question of whether there’s life on the moons of the outer planets -- on Europa, Enceladus and Titan,” said Tom Cwik, who leads JPL’s Space Technology Program. “We’re working with NASA Headquarters to identify the specific systems we need to build now, so that in 10 or 15 years, they could be ready for a spacecraft.”

[ NASA ]

Insightness has created a compact and efficient collision avoidance system for drones with a unique feature: It allows to detect and evade moving as well as static obstacles. While other collision avoidance systems can also detect and evade static obstacles, they struggle with handling dynamic objects. Thanks to the high temporal resolution of our sensors, we have overcome these limitations.

Depending on the configuration, the system delivers following information: the 3D position of the drone for trajectory control, a depth map to evade static objects and a motion map to evade moving obstacles. We are currently offering evaluation kits for our collision avoidance systems for drone and robot manufacturers.

[ Insightness ]

Thanks Christian!

Modern biology labs often use robotic assemblies to drop precise amounts of fluids into experimental containers. A Stanford engineer has shown how students and teachers can create inexpensive automated systems to do this in clubs or classrooms.

[ Stanford ]

The Everest series of humanoid robots from Abilix is designed to be a competitor to NAO:

We’re not sure how much the newest “Everest 7” is, but the less fancy “Everest 5” is about $850. This is much cheaper than NAO, although it’s worth mentioning that NAO has a big ecosystem behind it as well.

[ Abilix ]

Thanks Hendrik!

If you have a cat or a dog that you’d rather not pay attention to for days at a time, PawBot could be a rather expensive way of making sure that they don’t actually starve:

PawBot starts at $2800 (or $3000 if you want the model with WiFi and cameras), and is supposed to be ready for shipping by the end of the year.

[ PawBot ]

Thanks John!

Flyability has a new office, which you can get a tour of thanks to their bounce-able collision friendly drone:

[ Flyability ]

Here’s a teaser for Qbo One, a non-mobile version of Qbo that will be crowdfunding on Indiegogo in June:

[ Thecorpora ]

This visualisation presents a 360º view of the ExoMars 2020 rover. The 310 kg rover will traverse the martian landscape on six wheels. It will be the first rover capable of drilling down 2 m, where ancient biomarkers may still be preserved from the harsh radiation environment on the surface. The drill is housed in the large grey box at the front of the rover. Navigation cameras (at the top of the mast) and ‘localisation’ cameras (at the base of the mast) are used to determine where the rover is and where it will move. Power is supplied to the rover by solar panels. These are folded during the journey to Mars and opened once the rover is on the surface.

[ ESA ]

A look at a programmable robot kit from UBTECH:

Looks like you can buy this kit online for about $150.


Oh look, another ridiculous drone-delivery demo from Amazon:

Yawn. Show me something challenging already.

[ Prime Air ] via [ Consumerist ]

At the most recent Supply Chain Insights Global Summit, Jim Lawton, Rethink Robotics’ Chief Product and Marketing Officer, discussed the role smart, collaborative robots play in innovation today and the factories of tomorrow.

Personally, I think that it’s premature to describe any robot we have today as “like Rosie” (from the Jetsons), although Rethink is certainly making progress in that direction.

[ Rethink Robotics ]

Chen Li, from Johns Hopkins’ Terradynamics Lab, gave this talk on the terradynamics of animal and robot locomotion in complex terrains at the University of Maryland late last year:

[ JHU ]

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