Skydio 2
Image: Skydio

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!):

RSS 2020 – July 12-16, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
ICUAS 2020 – September 1-4, 2020 – Athens, Greece
ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan
IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – Las Vegas, Nevada
ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colorado

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

Skydio, which makes what we’re pretty sure is the most intelligent consumer drone (or maybe just drone period) in existence, has been dealing with COVID-19 just like the rest of us. Even so, they’ve managed to push out a major software update, and pre-orders for the Skydio 2 are now open again.

If you think you might want one, read our review, after which you’ll be sure you want one.

[ Skydio ]

Worried about people with COVID entering your workplace? Misty II has your front desk covered, in a way that’s quite a bit friendlier than many other options.

Misty II provides a dynamic and interactive screening experience that delivers a joyful experience in an otherwise depressing moment while also delivering state of the art thermal scanning and health screening. We have already found that employees, customers, and visitors appreciate the novelty of interacting with a clever and personable robot. Misty II engages dynamically, both visually and verbally. Companies appreciate using a solution with a blackbody-referenced thermal camera that provides high accuracy and a short screening process for efficiency. Putting a robot to work in this role shifts not only how people look at the screening process but also how robots can take on useful assignments in business, schools and homes.

Misty Robotics ]

Thanks Tim!

I’m definitely the one in the middle.

[ Agility Robotics ]

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter is traveling to Mars attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover and must safely detach to begin the first attempt at powered flight on another planet. Tests done at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Lockheed Martin Space show the sequence of events that will bring the helicopter down to the Martian surface.

[ JPL ]

Here’s a sequence of videos of Cassie Blue making it (or mostly making it) up a 22-degree slope.

My mood these days is Cassie at 1:09.

[ University of Michigan ]

Thanks Jesse!

This is somewhere on the line between home automation and robotics, but it’s a cool idea: A baby crib that “uses computer vision and machine learning to recognize subtle changes” in an infant’s movement, and proactively bounces them to keep them sleeping peacefully.

It costs $1000, but how much value do you put on 24 months of your own sleep?

[ Cradlewise ]

Thanks Ben!

As captive marine mammal shows have fallen from favor; and the catching, transporting and breeding of marine animals has become more restricted, the marine park industry as a viable business has become more challenging – yet the audience appetite for this type of entertainment and education has remained constant.

Real-time Animatronics provide a way to reinvent the marine entertainment industry with a sustainable, safe, and profitable future. Show venues include aquariums, marine parks, theme parks, fountain shows, cruise lines, resort hotels, shopping malls, museums, and more.

[ EdgeFX ] via [ Gizmodo ]

Robotic cabling is surprisingly complex and kinda cool to watch.

The video shows the sophisticated robot application “Automatic control cabinet cabling”, which Fraunhofer IPA implemented together with the company Rittal. The software pitasc, developed at Fraunhofer IPA, is used for force-controlled assembly processes. Two UR robot arms carry out the task together. The modular pitasc system enables the robot arms to move and rotate in parallel. They work hand in hand, with one robot holding the cable and the second bringing it to the starting position for the cabling. The robots can find, tighten, hold ready, lay, plug in, fix, move freely or immerse cables. They can also perform push-ins and pull tests.

[ Fraunhofer ]

This is from 2018, but the concept is still pretty neat.

We propose to perform a novel investigation into the ability of a propulsively hopping robot to reach targets of high science value on the icy, rugged terrains of Ocean Worlds. The employment of a multi-hop architecture allows for the rapid traverse of great distances, enabling a single mission to reach multiple geologic units within a timespan conducive to system survival in a harsh radiation environment. We further propose that the use of a propulsive hopping technique obviates the need for terrain topographic and strength assumptions and allows for complete terrain agnosticism; a key strength of this concept.

[ NASA ]

Aerial-aquatic robots possess the unique ability of operating in both air and water. However, this capability comes with tremendous challenges, such as communication incompati- bility, increased airborne mass, potentially inefficient operation in each of the environments and manufacturing difficulties. Such robots, therefore, typically have small payloads and a limited operational envelope, often making their field usage impractical. We propose a novel robotic water sampling approach that combines the robust technologies of multirotors and underwater micro-vehicles into a single integrated tool usable for field operations.

[ Imperial ]

Event cameras are bio-inspired vision sensors with microsecond latency resolution, much larger dynamic range and hundred times lower power consumption than standard cameras. This 20-minute talk gives a short tutorial on event cameras and show their applications on computer vision, drones, and cars.

[ UZH ]

We interviewed Paul Newman, Perla Maiolino and Lars Kunze, ORI academics, to hear what gets them excited about robots in the future and any advice they have for those interested in the field.

[ Oxford Robotics Institute ]

Two projects from the Rehabilitation Engineering Lab at ETH Zurich, including a self-stabilizing wheelchair and a soft exoskeleton for grasping assistance.

[ ETH Zurich ]

Silicon Valley Robotics hosted an online conversation about robotics and racism. Moderated by Andra Keay, the panel featured Maynard Holliday, Tom Williams, Monroe Kennedy III, Jasmine Lawrence, Chad Jenkins, and Ken Goldberg.

[ SVR ]

The ICRA Legged Locomotion workshop has been taking place online, and while we’re not getting a robot mosh pit, there are still some great talks. We’ll post two here, but for more, follow the legged robots YouTube channel at the link below.

[ YouTube ]

The Conversation (0)

How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
LightGreen

“I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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