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Video Friday: SpaceX Rocket Mishaps, Robot Puppy, and Lean Robotics

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

6 min read

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum's Digital Innovation Director.

SpaceX rocket exploding
Image: SpaceX 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!):

Singularities of Mechanisms and Robotic Manipulators – September 18-22, 2017 – Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria
ROSCon – September 21-22, 2017 – Vancouver, B.C., Canada
IEEE IROS – September 24-28, 2017 – Vancouver, B.C., Canada
RoboBusiness – September 27-28, 2017 – Santa Clara, Calif., USA
BtS Maritime Robotics – October 1-8, 2017 – Biograd na Moru, Croatia
Drone World Expo – October 2-4, 2017 – San Jose, Calif., USA
HAI 2017 – October 17-20, 2017 – Bielefeld, Germany
ICUAS 2017 – October 22-29, 2017 – Miami, Fla., USA

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

If you haven’t seen this blooper reel of rocket mishaps from SpaceX, it’s spectacular:

I love this because it’s a reminder that robotics (and space robotics especially) is very very hard, and part of the normal process of discovery and learning is trying things and having them go wrong. What should be a normal part of that process is also sharing the failures on video to help the rest of us feel better about our own projects, so especially if you’re doing research, make sure and keep a copy of all of those outtakes, and send them to us!

SpaceX ]

We wrote about Fable when we first saw it at IROS 2014 in Chicago, and a few years later, they’ve shipped hundreds of robots to customers in Denmark and are now starting to ship to the rest of the world. Here’s a look at the updated system:

Fable is an educational modular robot which makes it easy and fun for anyone from 8 years of age to university level to create their own robots. The system consist of a library of robust robotics modules that snap together magnetically to quickly create various robots. For example, students could build a walking robot, a social robot or a robotics arm. The robots can then be programmed from a PC og tablet with a visual programming language for the beginner or with textual programming for the experienced user. The students can also design and 3D print their own add-ons for the robots.

The Fable system is unique since it’s not a toy like other educational robots, but rather a box of power tools. Fable enables the students to be innovative as they can create advanced robots that meet authentic challenges. In one Danish school, the students built welfare technology to help the staff and residents at a local nursing home.

Since it’s designed to be an educational system, Fable is priced for classrooms, and the standard set (for up to six users) will run you just under $1200.

[ Shape Robotics ]

Thanks David!

Introducing the KUKA KMP 1500, an autonomous and powerful mobile platform - capable of navigating with Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) using laser scanners.


YuMi, the world’s first truly collaborative dual-arm robot, has made its debut at the opera by conducting Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra at the Teatro Verdi in Pisa. ABB’s YuMi was invited to the stage by Mr. Bocelli, who performed the famous aria "La Donna è Mobile" from Verdi’s Rigoletto. YuMi also conducted works of Puccini and Mascagni during its first night at the opera in front of a sold-out Teatro.

"There’s no way it could replace the sensitivity and emotion of a conductor, because a robot has no soul. It’s just an arm, not the brain, not the heart," [conductor Andrea] Colombini said. Later, when the conductor himself takes to the stage, his whole body sways and thrusts—and the difference is startling. "There’s not much room unfortunately for improvisation, you have to go with the robot," says American violinist Brad Repp, who took part in the concert. "It’s a cool effect... but there’s no way this could be the future," he said.

[ ABB ] via [ Physorg ]

For only $900, this small robotic puppy will sniff your feet and then keel over and spray air freshener:

[ Japan Times ]

Self-driving TurtleBots! Look at this cute little TB 3 race track.

And ROBOTIS wants you to know that there is some sort of secret mission inside that tunnel.


We’ve posted MZBIRC videos before, but here’s a nice 3-minute wrap-up of the 2017 event:

[ MZBIRC 2017 ]

NSF-funded researcher Robin Murphy, director of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue, discusses the use of small, unmanned aerial vehicles in supporting disaster response in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. It was the largest known formal deployment by public officials of small unmanned aircraft for disaster response in our nation’s history. This footage was provided by TEES Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) and the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management.


Scanse’s Sweep lidar is high quality and inexpensive, and in addition to making robots with it, you can also use it for 3D scanning:

The full kit (including the sensor) is $750 if you’re comfortable with soldering, $1000 if you’re not.

[ Scanse ]

A revolutionary NASA Technology Demonstration Mission project called Dragonfly, designed to enable robotic self-assembly of satellites in Earth orbit, has successfully completed its first major ground demonstration.

A lightweight robotic system with a dexterous 3.5-meter arm that’s able to clamp down, carry items or operate controls -- from either end of the "limb" -- Dragonfly can install delicate satellite antenna, yet also assemble satellites too massive to be launched to space in their final flight-ready state. These disassembled satellites may be stowed more efficiently or even launched in pieces via multiple flights, enabling mission planners to maximize cargo space and reduce mass. That shift would dramatically reduce launch costs and lead to less expensive, higher-performing satellites.

During the August ground demonstration, Dragonfly’s initial focus was the installation and reconfiguration of large antenna reflectors on a simulated geostationary satellite. The antennas are designed to focus the satellite signal to receivers on the ground. Additional demonstrations are planned through 2018 to further refine its processes and capabilities, including more fluid robotic arm movement and its ability to make even more precise reflector alignments.

Over time, the system will integrate 3-D printing technology enabling the automated manufacture of new antennae and even replacement reflectors as needed. Should a piece of hardware be damaged, or come to the end of its lifecycle, engineers could remotely remove and recycle the outdated component, replacing it with a new one.

[ NASA ]

Om nom plastic bags nom nom:

The ZRR system can sort up to eighteen fractions at one spot in a single pass at a max speed of 6000 picks per hour, using three successive arms. Bag weights can be 0-30 kg, throughputs up to 50 tonnes per hour. The system can do positive or negative sorting - or hybrid sorting! Also a wide variety of other materials can be sorted with the very same system at the very same time.

[ ZenRobotics ]

Samuel Bouchard, CEO of Robotiq, presents (among other things) “a brand new methodology for robotic cell deployment” called Lean Robotics at the Robotiq User Conference.

Learn lots more at the links below.

[ Lean Robotics ] via [ RUC ]

This week’s CMU Robotics Insitute lecture comes from Sven Koenig at USC on “Progress on Multi-Robot Path Finding”:

Teams of robots often have to assign target locations among themselves and then plan collision-free paths to their target locations. Examples include autonomous aircraft towing vehicles and automated warehouse systems. For example, in the near future, autonomous aircraft towing vehicles might tow aircraft all the way from the runways to their gates (and vice versa), thereby reducing pollution, energy consumption, congestion and human workload. Today, hundreds of robots already navigate autonomously in Amazon fulfillment centers to move inventory pods all the way from their storage locations to the packing stations. Path planning for these robots can be NP-hard, yet one must find high-quality collision-free paths for them in real-time. The shorter these paths are, the fewer robots are needed and the cheaper it is to open new fulfillment centers. In this talk, I describe several variants of the multi-robot path-planning problem, their complexities and algorithms for solving them. I also present a hierarchical planning architecture that combines ideas from artificial intelligence and robotics. It makes use of a simple temporal network to post-process the output of a multi-robot path-finding algorithm in polynomial time to create a plan-execution schedule that take the maximum translational and rotational velocities of non-holonomic robots into account, provides a guaranteed safety distance between them, and exploits slack to absorb imperfect plan executions and avoid time-intensive re-planning in many cases. This research is joint research with N. Ayanian, T. Cai, L. Cohen, W. Hoenig, S. Kumar, H. Ma, G. Sharon, C. Tovey, T. Uras, H. Xu, S. Young, D. Zhang, and other colleagues and students.

CMU RI Seminar ]

We’ll end this week with four talks from the capstone event of the Army Research Lab’s Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (MAST) program. Vijay Kumar kicks things off with a talk about “research to enhance tactical situational awareness in urban and complex terrain by enabling the autonomous operation of a collaborative ensemble of microsystems.”

William Nothwang on the research behind the vision to provide hardware/software with sensing, perception, and processing for small air and ground vehicles.

Next, Sean Humbert from UC Boulder talks about develping the fundamental science, tools, and algorithms to enable mobility of heterogeneous teams of autonomous micro-platforms for tactical situational awareness.

And finally, Larry Matthies from JPL talks about joint experimentation between micro autonomous systems and technology research institutions to integrate and extend individual lower-level capabilities from the core research.


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Tech Doa30 May, 2022