Video Friday: Teleoperated Balloon Animals, Zipperbots, and Indiana Darwin

As far as we know, this is the first time a robot has ever made a balloon animal, and we have video

4 min read
Video Friday: Teleoperated Balloon Animals, Zipperbots, and Indiana Darwin
Image: RE2 Robotics

Robots are getting much, much better at sensing and manipulation. It may not always feel like they’re making progress, but they are. Still, asking them to do anything autonomously, especially in unfamiliar or unstructured environments where things need to happen in real time, is usually only going to lead to disappointment, frustration, tears, and sometimes screaming.

For now, the reliable way of getting a robot to do what you want (when it involves perception and fine motor skills) is teleoperation. RE2 Robotics builds Highly Dexterous Manipulation System (HDMS) that are half the weight of a humanoid torso with twice the strength of a human, intuitively controlled by a sort of Waldo system. It’s primarily designed for military operations, but RE2 has a far more critical task: making balloon animals. See how they do it, plus lots more videos. It’s Friday!

I was half expecting the robot to pick that cupcake up and shove it into the space where its mouth isn’t. And as far as I know, this is the first robot to make a balloon animal, although if I’m wrong about this, we’ll find out shortly in the comments.

You’re probably wondering (like I was) exactly how many takes were required to get the robot to non-destructively make a balloon fish. David Rusbarsky,
senior software engineer at RE2, has the answer:

We popped 5 balloons with the robot and successfully made 8 fish on the first day that we tried making them. Our record only got better on the second day, including making 1 dog. I popped an additional 3 with my own two hands, and successfully made an additional 2 fish before trying with the robot, so I was actually better at making them with the robot than I was with my own hands. Also, in the [video below] we unlocked the lock on the first try with no troubles whatsoever. Not bad for having a grand total of 4 fingers, right?

[ RE2 Robotics ]

Thanks David!

Last week, we had a preview of a Darwin robot on skis. Here’s the follow-up vid:

I want that hat.

[ University of Manitoba ]

It’s not a coincidence that we have another fun video featuring Darwin, this time as Indiana Jones:

Robotis is sponsoring a contest at ICRA 2015 for “humanoid applications,” and according to the rules, we’ll see some of this stuff live in Seattle.

[ NTNU ]

From MIT’s Personal Robots Group:

Building upon a history of robot aesthetics and a formulaic approach to analyze and understand fashion, a series of design principles for Sartorial Robotics were established and applied in the research and development of robotic systems that utilize the human-centric system of clothing to create robotics for human-robot social interaction. The Group Identity Surface is a soft-architecture system utilizing thermochromic textiles and computer vision to facilitate human-machine teammate building. Zipperbot, a robotic continuous closure for fabric edge joining, was developed to explore autonomous control of a sartorial gesture and performed as a wearable robot which was evaluated through social interactions. Clothing is a uniquely human pursuit and is nearly universal in its adoption and use. It plays a prominent role in our individual cultures transmitting a mixture of social signals and meanings through the semiotics of fashion. It is through this performance of assemblage of fabric surfaces we reconfigure ourselves and our identities. Merging robotics and fashion within the practice of Sartorial Robotics will enhance the explorations of identities for both humans and robots.

[ Sartorial Robots ]

The Robotics and Perception Group at the University of Zurich, led by Davide Scaramuzza, is celebrating its three year anniversary with a sweet video complication. Pay special attention at 1:20, where they demonstrate the best way to launch a drone:

Congratulations, and we’re looking forward to 3 30 more years!

[ RPG ]

By the end of this year, Astrobotic will have used robots to place a can of Pocari Sweat on the surface of the Moon. What is a Pocari and why does its sweat need to go to the Moon? Because we can.

[ Astrobotic Moon Mail ]

It’s cold in Poland. It’s where the word polar comes from,* that’s how cold it is. But that’s no excuse for stealing coal, and if you try it, a surveillance drone is going to catch you:

Via [ Radio Poland ]

* This is not true at all.

UPenn’s Kodlab (part of the Grasp Lab) has posted a few videos of early juggling robots. Early like ::gasp:: the 1990s. The video description adds some historical context: “this work was done at a time when Windows 3.1 had not yet been released.”

[ Kodlab Tumblr ]

“Roboticist by day and dancer by night, I love to dance with robot on my free time. I had the pleasure to dance with pepper at the atelier and this video is my memory of this moment.”

Roboticist by day and dancer by night. I’m feelin’ you, man.

Audrick Fausta ]

The thing to remember about all the vids in this complication of drone crashes is that in every case, someone managed to recover the camera intact.

Via [ @grok_ ]

We weren’t at AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems Expo last year because it was in Florida, and (being bloggers) we sunburn easily. Here's a montage, featuring lots of cool (and in many cases recognizable) robots:


This is just a clothes commercial, but I find it super creepy.

In an area where businessmen don't have time to leave the office, Camisaria Colombo - a famous Brazilian shirt store - decided to give them a little help by taking its Black Friday's offers to them.

The future is drones with arms and legs. Terrifying.

Via [ @dronelaws ]

Let’s end the week with a recap/preview of the DRC from DARPA:

But wait! Where’s the extra long video that we usually end with to help you waste your Friday afternoon? Here you go, welcome to the 9.5 hour recording of the live feed of the DRC Trials day 1 door stage, featuring performences by SCHAFT and NASA JSC (if you can find them):

And if for some reason you’re still at work after all that, you should reevaluate your career and then move on to terrain and vehicle.

[ DRC ]

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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