Video Friday: Virtual Cat Petting

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

4 min read
The “HairTouch” system that uses robotic manipulation to achieve a variety of haptic sensations using hair.
Image: NTU

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!):

ICRA 2021 – May 30-5, 2021 – [Online Event]
RoboCup 2021 – June 22-28, 2021 – [Online Event]
DARPA SubT Finals – September 21-23, 2021 – Louisville, KY, USA
WeRobot 2021 – September 23-25, 2021 – Coral Gables, FL, USA
IROS 2021 – September 27-1, 2021 – [Online Event]
ROSCon 20201 – October 21-23, 2021 – New Orleans, LA, USA

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

The 2021 Computer-Human Interaction conference (CHI) took place this week, in amongst the stereo smelling and tooth control were some incredibly creative robotics projects, like this “HairTouch” system that uses robotic manipulation to achieve a variety of haptic sensations using hair.

We propose a pinbased handheld device, HairTouch, to provide stiffness differences, roughness differences, surface height differences and their combinations. HairTouch consists of two pins for the two finger segments close to the index fingertip, respectively. By controlling brush hairs’ length and bending direction to change the hairs’ elasticity and hair tip direction, each pin renders various stiffness and roughness, respectively.

[ NTU ]

Thanks Fan!

Here's another cool thing from CHI: a “Pneumatic Raspberry Pi for Soft Robotics.”

FlowIO is a miniature, modular, pneumatic development platform with a software toolkit for control, actuation, and sensing of soft robots and programmable materials. Five pneumatic ports and multiple fully-integrated modules to satisfy various pressure, flow, and size requirements make FlowIO suitable for most wearable and non-wearable pneumatic applications in HCI and soft robotics.

[ FlowIO ]

Thanks Fan!

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter completed its fifth flight with a one-way journey from Wright Brothers Field to a new airfield 423 feet (129 meters) to the south on May 7, 2021.

NASA has 3D-ified Ingenuity's third flight, so dig up your 3D glasses and check it out:

Also, audio!

[ NASA ]

Until we can find a good way of training cats, we'll have to make due with robots if we want to study their neuromuscular dynamics.

Toyoaki Tanikawa and his supervisors assistant professor Yoichi Masuda and Prof Masato Ishikawa developed a four-legged robot that enables the reproduction of motor control of animals using computers. This quadruped robot, which comprises highly back-drivable legs to reproduce the flexibility of animals and torque-controllable motors, can reproduce muscle characteristics of animals. Thus, it is possible to conduct various experiments using this robot instead of the animals themselves.

[ Osaka University ]

Thanks Yoichi!

Turner Topping is a PhD student and researcher with Kod*lab, a legged robotics group within the GRASP Lab at Penn Engineering. Through this video profile, one gains insight into Turner’s participation in the academic research environment, overcoming uncertainties and obstacles.

[ Kod*Lab ]

A team led by Assistant Professor Benjamin Tee from the National University of Singapore has developed a smart material known as AiFoam that could give machines human-like sense of touch, to better judge human intentions and respond to changes in the environment.

[ NUS ]

Boston University mechanical engineers have developed a unique way to use an ancient Japanese art form for a very 21st-century purpose. In a paper published this week in Science Robotics, Douglas Holmes and BU PhD student Yi Yang demonstrate how they were inspired by kirigami, the traditional Japanese art of paper cutting (cousin of origami paper-folding art), to design soft robotic grippers.

[ BU ]

Turns out, if you give robots voices and names and googly eyes and blogs (?), people will try to anthropomorphize them. Go figure!

[ NTNU ]

Domestic garbage management is an important aspect of a sustainable environment. This paper presents a novel garbage classification and localization system for grasping and placement in the correct recycling bin, integrated on a mobile manipulator. In particular, we first introduce and train a deep neural network (namely, GarbageNet) to detect different recyclable types of garbage in the wild. Secondly, we use a grasp localization method to identify the grasp poses of garbage that need to be collected from the ground. Finally, we perform grasping and sorting of the objects by the mobile robot through a whole-body control framework.

[ UCL ]

Thanks Dimitrios!

I am 100% here for telepresence robots with emotive antennas.

[ Pollen Robotics ]

We propose a novel robotic system that can improve its semantic perception during deployment. Our system tightly couples multi-sensor perception and localisation to continuously learn from self-supervised pseudo labels.

[ ASL ]

Vandi Verma is one of the people driving the Mars Perseverance rover, and CMU would like to remind you that that she graduated from CMU.

[ CMU ]

Pepper is here to offer a “phygital” experience to shoppers.

I had to look up “phygital,” and it's a combination of phyiscal and digital that is used exclusively in marketing, as far as I can tell, so let us never speak of it again.

[ CMU ]

Researchers conduct early mobility testing on an engineering model of NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, and fine-tune a newly installed OptiTrack motion tracking camera system at NASA Glenn’s Simulated Lunar Operations Lab.

[ NASA ]

Mmm, sorting is satisfying to watch.

[ Dorabot ]

iRobot seems to be hiring, although you’ll have to brave a pupper infestation.

Clean floors, though!

[ iRobot ]

Shadow Robot's bimanual teleoperation system is now commercially available for a price you almost certainly cannot afford!

Converge Robotics Group offers a haptic option, too.

[ Shadow ]

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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