Video Friday: Robot With Scissors, Cassie on a Segway, and Atlas Kicking

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

6 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum's Digital Innovation Director.

Robot with scissors
Image: RC2L/KITECH 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!):

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
AIM 2018 – July 9-12, 2018 – Auckland, New Zealand

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

Oh yes, this is an excellent idea.

Cassie Blue is controlling the motion of the Segway by body lean, just as a human rider would do. Because the speeds here are low, the amount of body lean is almost imperceptible to the naked eye. When we apply a connection between the robot's legs and the central bar, turning will be possible.

[ University of Michigan ]

From UC Berkeley:

We present a conceptually simple RL framework that enables simulated characters to learn highly dynamic and acrobatic skills from reference motion clips, which can be provided in the form of mocap data recorded from human subjects. Given a single demonstration of a skill, such as a spin-kick or a backflip, our character is able to learn a robust policy to imitate the skill in simulation. Our policies produce motions that are nearly indistinguishable from mocap.

It’s worth watching if for no other reason than to see a simulated Atlas doing spin kicks and backflips.

[ Paper ] via [ BAIR ]

What’s worse than giving a humanoid robot something it can stab people with? Programming it to pick up something it can stab people with all by itself.

You know we’re kidding, right? We totally trust robots with sharp objects.


Are you ready for some intense Beam-on-Beam action?

Suitable ]

Animals inspire many designs for robots, from the gecko-inspired StickyBot to RoboBees. But mechanical engineers at Stanford University looked to the plant world for bio-inspiration.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Allison Okamura and her collaborators at Stanford University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, are building soft robots inspired by vines. Collaborators on this research include Elliot Hawkes of University of California, Santa Barbara, and Sean Follmer and Jonathan Fan of Stanford University.

The form and nature of vines are ideal for threading through narrow spaces, whether those spaces are within the human body or at a disaster site. Imagine a vine robot becoming a water hose that grows to a fire or an oxygen tube that grows to a trapped disaster victim. The team is also engineering vine robots with the ability to configure themselves into three-dimensional structures, such as manipulators and antennae for communication.

Vine robots are one type of soft robot, an emerging area of robotics engineering. Soft robots incorporate versatility, adaptability, and pliability to function more like natural organisms, and to allow humans and soft robots to work safely together.

[ NSF ]

Be a Maker is an all-new companion app that teaches kids how to program by allowing them to code for their Jibo robot. Be a Maker not only helps kids practice programming but also challenges them to use logic, problem solving, and computational thinking—skills that can be applied to any field, not just technology. Based on the open-source Scratch programming language, Be a Maker lets kids create customized programs for their Jibo robot.

I feel like this will be good for lots of people, not just kids. Adults can suck at coding too!

[ Jibo ]

You had me at “MangoBot.”

The basic MangoBot kit is $125, and if you want to add fancier programming options, the complete kit is just under $200.

[ MangoBot ]

The Aquabotix SwarmDiverTM is a Micro Diving USV (Unmanned Surface Vehicle) which utilizes swarming technology to act as a single entity. SwarmDiverTM is capable of synchronous vertical diving, is easy to deploy, and has a max dive depth of 50 meters.

[ Aquabotix ]

Hebocon, the world’s best best worst robot competition, this time from Athens:

[ Hebocon Athens ]

E-mart presents Eli, the first autonomous smart shopping robot. Powered by Robotnik.

That...may have been the trying-hardest-to-be-trendy video that we’ve ever posted.

[ E-Mart ] via [ Robotnik ]

CoBlox is a project by a team from the University of Maryland, CMU, University of Chicago, and ABB to explore a block-based interface for programming industrial robots. They’ve recently released a paper presenting the results of a study with 67 adults who were new to programming robots and used CoBlox to program a one-armed industrial robot, comparing the results to two programming approaches widely used in industry.

A new wave of collaborative robots designed to work alongside humans is bringing the automation historically seen in large-scale industrial settings to new, diverse contexts. However, the ability to program these machines often requires years of training, making them inaccessible or impractical for many. This project rethinks what robot programming interfaces could be in order to make them accessible and intuitive for adult novice programmers.

The results show participants using the block-based interface successfully implemented robot programs faster with no loss in accuracy while reporting higher scores for usability, learnability, and overall satisfaction. The contribution of this work is showing the potential for using block-based programming to make powerful technologies accessible to a wider audience.

[ Paper ]

Students programmed robots to autonomously navigate an unknown cityscape and aid in a simulated rescue of animals in peril in a class that mimics the programming needed for autonomous cars or robots of the future.

My TurtleBot 3 is so jealous, it wants a Velodyne Puck now. Thanks, Stanford.

[ Stanford ]

This very complex and presumably expensive robot appears to have been designed specifically to build towers out of cards and do nothing else:

[ IAI ]

There is one part of my life where I welcome ROBOTS: cleaning the floor. Here is my story. For years my Mom says, “Please clean the floor of the Lego pieces.” Now, my answer is, “Lego will do it for me!”

[ The Brick Wall ] via [ Gizmodo ]

Overview of our first hackathon on the Pepper robot that took place on our Paris office from March 23 to 25 (2018). During 48 hours, around 70 developers, UX designers, students (and more profiles) from 12 countries brought their ideas to life, around the theme “Pepper for well-being?”

[ Softbank ]

The Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines (IRIM) connects robotics researchers, educators, and students from across campus to advance the many high-powered and diverse robotics activities at Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech ]

Hajime Research Institute is getting dangerously close to having a 4-meter-tall bipedal humanoid robot that can walk dynamically(ish):

Hajime Research ]

WeRobotics is testing delivery drones in Fiji because everybody goes to Fiji to test robots now. Because why would you not want to go to Fiji?

According to WeRobotics, this is “perhaps the first ever autonomous cargo drone flight in the Pacific.” Definitely won’t be the last, I bet.

WeRobotics ]

A new Life With Cozmo vid, featuring elegant weapons from a more civilized age.

David tells us that he rotoscoped over 3,000 frames by hand (!) to create the light-saber effects. “It was painstaking but well worth it,” he says, and we agree, especially since we just get to see the result and not the suffering involved in creating it.

Life with Cozmo ]

Thanks, David!

The Skunk Works® purpose-built MQ-25 unmanned tanker concept is designed to deliver robust refueling capability to support our combat strike fighters and extend the range of our aircraft carriers. Our offering builds on our unmanned systems legacy including the RQ-170 to bring proven low-risk approaches to our design.

[ Lockheed Martin ]

In this week's episode of Robots in Depth, Per interviews Paul Ekas, from SAKE Robotics.

Paul Ekas talks about his EZGripper and how he designed it to be low cost, lightweight, robust, and to offer a reliable grip of small and large objects. The EZGripper is a tendon-based gripper using Dyneema tendons and aluminum oxide eyelets to make it durable and able to handle rough environments. The EZGripper is under-actuated, and the fingers stay straight when picking up small objects and wrapping around large objects. You can control position and torque, allowing you to grip soft or hard objects and to do so gently or firmly.

[ Sake Robotics ] via [ Robots in Depth ]

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