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Dash Robotics Kamigami robots.
Image: Dash Robotics via YouTube

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton rhymers. 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!):

RoboBusiness Europe – June 1-3, 2016 – Odense, Denmark
Dynamic Walking 2016 – June 4-7, 2016 – Holland, Mich., USA
IEEE RAS MRSSS 2016 – June 6-10, 2016 – Singapore
CR-HRI – June 6-10, 2016 – Orlando, Fla., USA
NASA SRRC Level 1 – June 6-11, 2016 – Worcester, Mass., USA
Field Robot Event – June 14-18, 2016 – Haßfurt, Germany
RSS 2016 – June 18-22, 2016 – Ann Arbor, Mich., USA
European Land Robot Trial – June 20-24, 2016 – Eggendorf, Austria
Automatica 2016 – June 21-25, 2016 – Munich, Germany
ISR 2016 – June 21-22, 2016 – Munich, Germany
ICROM 2016 – June 23-25, 2016 – Singapore
The Rise of Machine Learning – June 24, 2016 – San Francisco, Calif., USA
UK Robotics Week – June 25-1, 2016 – United Kingdom
Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics – June 25-28, 2016 – London, England
TAROS 2016 – June 28-30, 2016 – Sheffield, United Kingdon
RoboCup 2016 – June 30-4, 2016 – Leipzig, Germany
Amazon Picking Challenge – June 30-4, 2016 – Leipzig, Germany
IEEE AIM 2016 – July 12-15, 2016 – Banff, Canada
DLMC 2016 – July 13-15, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
MARSS 2016 – July 18-22, 2016 – Paris, France
IEEE WCCI 2016 – July 25-29, 2016 – Vancouver, Canada

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

Now, this is cool, mostly because of the immensely satisfying sounds involved:

“The LOw-Cost Unmanned aerial vehicle Swarming Technology (LOCUST) is a prototype tube-launched UAV. The LOCUST program will make possible the launch of multiple swarming UAVs to autonomously overwhelm an adversary.”

The software that the drones use to fly together in a swarm is being developed in collaboration with Georgia Tech:

[ ]

Would you trust a TurtleBot carrying a box cookies? Of course you would, and that may be a bad thing, according to research from Serena Booth at Harvard:

When the robot approached lone individuals, they helped it enter the building in 19 percent of trials. When Booth placed the robot inside the building, and it approached individuals asking to be let outside, they complied with its request 40 percent of the time. Her results indicate that people may feel safety in numbers when interacting with robots, since the machine gained access to the building in 71 percent of cases when it approached groups.

“People were a little bit more likely to let the robot outside than inside, but it wasn’t statistically significant,” Booth said. “That was interesting, because I thought people would perceive the robot as a security threat.”

In fact, only one of the 108 study participants stopped to ask the robot if it had card access to the building.

But the human-robot interactions took on a decidedly friendlier character when Booth disguised the robot as a cookie-delivering agent of a fictional startup, “RobotGrub.” When approached by the cookie-delivery robot, individuals let it into the building 76 percent of the time.

“Everyone loved the robot when it was delivering cookies,” she said.

Also OMG might be a real thing!!!

[ RoboHub ]

University of Washington researchres have built RoboBees that can stick to things with their heads using static electricity, exactly like real bees don’t:

Mechanisms that animals use to perch, such as sticky adhesives or talons, aren’t easily adaptable to a paper clip-size microrobot. So the team turned to electrostatic adhesion—the same basic science that causes a static-charged sock to cling to a pants leg or a balloon to stick to a wall.

The RoboBee, pioneered at the Harvard Microrobotics Lab, uses an electrode patch and a foam mount that absorbs shock. The entire mechanism weighs 13.4 mg, bringing the total weight of the robot to about 100mg — similar to the weight of a real honeybee. The robot takes off and flies normally. When the electrode patch is supplied with a charge, it can stick to almost any surface, from glass to wood to a leaf. To detach, the power supply is simply switched off.

 The patch requires about 1,000 times less power to perch than it does to hover, which can dramatically extend the operation life of the robot.

[ University of Washington ]

You almost certainly don’t want to try this with your robot:

Next: indestructible animal robots thrown out of the International Space Station. 


[ Kamigami ]

Google I/O this year featured a painting robot:

This reminds me of the kind of work that Bot & Dolly used to do before being swallowed by Google, like with the robot graffiti car that they put together for Chevy, which I’d link you to more info about except that it has apparently been scrubbed from the internet except for this one video from what is maybe a Colombian Chevy dealer:

Mind you, I have no idea whether whatever is left of Bot & Dolly is involved in the Google I/O thing at all, it just seems kind of similar.

[ Google I/O 2016 ]

Wait, there is actually one page of info about that robot graffiti car, from Nick Donaldson, who helped Bot & Dolly out with the more robotic-y parts of it. Nick does a bunch of other cool robot stuff as well, and one of his bots was out at Maker Faire this year skating with cupcake cars:

[ Nick Donaldson ]

Hinamitetu’s ring gymnast robot is maybe not, strictly speaking, his absolutely most impressive gymnastics robot, but come on, dude is running out of gymnastics events:

[ Hinamitetu ]

The Dyson 360 Eye is one of the most expensive robot vacuums you can buy, and this is a little bit of what goes into making it:

[ Dyson 360 Eye ]

Are you ready for the most soothing robotic bat video ever? Not that there’s a huge amount of robotic bat videos, but still.

[ Illinois ]

As things like MOOCs get more popular, lecturing to a video camera in an empty room is becoming normal, which is bad, because the lecturer doesn’t get feedback on whether or not they’re taking the slow train to snoozeville. Mocoro is a robot from IBM Research Tokyo that can act like an audience, letting you know whether you’re talking too fast, not making sense, or need more explosions in your slide deck:

[ IBM Research Tokyo ]

The Science Museum in the U.K. (I guess there’s just one?) is looking for help on Kickstarter to rebuild Eric, “U.K.’s First Robot,” which amazed and astounded in 1928:

It’s really less of a rebuilding and more of a recreating, since no original parts seem to be left and there are very few details on the inner workings or programming. What matters, though, is that in the original robot “35,000 volts of electricity caused blue sparks to fly from his teeth.” Recreating that is a noble cause indeed.

[ The Science Museum ] via [ Kickstarter ]

And here’s another robot that might come back: iBOT. Dean Kamen’s R&D firm DEKA and Toyota are partnering to redesign and commercialize the next-generation of the robotic wheelchair. 

[ Toyota ]

Erle Robotics now has a cute little yellow boat that runs ROS:

[ Erle-Boat ]

Here, very generally, is what Sidd Srinivasa is working on at CMU:

[ CMU ]

KUKA was one of the companies at ICRA showing off some cool demos:

This year our booth includes demonstrations in Machine Learning, making access to robotics easier for educational institutions, and helping to increase energy efficiency and optimize robotic energy consumption in collaboration with researchers.

[ KUKA ]

Teams of undergraduate and graduate students from throughout the nation recently gathered at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to demonstrate their excavator robots during the 2016 Robotic Mining Competition. Similar technology may prove valuable in NASA’s Journey to Mars.

[ NASA ]

AeroVironment’s Tether Eye is a drone that’s attached to a base station to provide continuous surveillance from up to 150 feet in the air:

Paging CyPhy Works...

[ AeroVironment ]

The Airbus Shop Floor Challenge was going on at ICRA while we were running around covering all the interactive sessions, but RoboHub was there to take video:

Read lots more over on RoboHub at the link below.

[ Airbus ] via [ RoboHub ]

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

“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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