Hey there, human — the robots need you! Vote for IEEE’s Robots Guide in the Webby Awards.

Close bar

Video Friday: Water Drones, Sad Robot, and Self-Driving in Duckie Town

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

5 min read

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum's Digital Innovation Director.

APIUM water drones
Photo: APIUM Swarm Robotics

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!):

MARSS – July 17-21, 2017 – Montreal, Canada
Summer School on Soft Manipulation – July 17-21, 2017 – Lake Chiemsee, Germany
Living Machines Conference – July 25-28, 2017 – Stanford, Calif., USA
RoboCup 2017 – July 27-31, 2017 – Nagoya, Japan
IEEE CASE 2017 – August 20-23, 2017 – Xi’an, China
IEEE ICARM 2017 – August 27-31, 2017 – Hefei, China
IEEE RO-MAN – August 28-31, 2017 – Lisbon, Portugal
CLAWAR 2017 – September 11-13, 2017 – Porto, Portugal
FSR 2017 – September 12-15, 2017 – Zurich, Switzerland

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

We could watch these water drones swim and dive all day. 

They were developed by APIUM Swarm Robotics, which took them for a swim off of Catalina Island in California.


Dreamer doesn’t want to play. Dreamer wants to be left alone.

Dreamer wants its head back.

UT Human Centered Robotics Lab ]

Here’s how to fly an autonomous drone through the woods without crashing into stuff.

The drone flies at 10 m/s with no GPS, and uses a collision-avoidance system developed by Near Earth Autonomy. The system detects obstacles and maneuvers the drone to avoid them without slowing.

Near Earth Autonomy ]

You know who’s going to have self-driving cars before humans? Duckies.

[ NAS Lab ]

ICYMI: We did a story this week on a new acoustic communications protocol that is a step towards an Internet of Underwater Things.


At first glance, Alex Burka, a Ph.D. student in Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, looks like a ghostbuster. He walks into the Penn Bookstore strapped to a bulky orange backpack, holding a long, narrow instrument with various sensors attached. The device looks exactly like the powerful nuclear accelerator backpack and particle thrower attachment used in the movies to attack and contain ghosts. For this reason, Burka and the other people who work with him jokingly refer to it as a “Proton Pack.”

But Burka is not in the business of hunting ghosts. Instead, he’s leading a project designed to enable robots to “feel with their eyes.” Using this Proton Pack, Burka hopes to build up a database of one thousand surfaces to help coach robots on how to identify objects and also to know what they’re made of and how best to handle them.

[ UPenn ]

ICYMI2: Here’s our story on how a stay-at-home dad from California managed an epic win at NASA’s Space Robotics Challenge, taking home a cash prize of $175,000.

And the best outtake videos from the competition, below.


“I told him he was nuts.” That’s what Dean Kamen told a DARPA deputy director when asked to develop the advanced prosthetic LUKE Arm in two years. Kamen did it anyway, although it took him 10, not two, years. 


The technology group Wärtsilä and DHL, the world’s leading logistics company, have teamed up to test mobile robots of Fetch Robotics. The aim of the project was to investigate possibilities to utilise the latest technology innovations in the daily warehouse operations and to gain more understanding of the added value of robotics in a warehouse environment and to learn about the human–technology interface between robots and employees.

The mobile robot system simplifies point to point material handling. Workflows at Wärtsilä’s warehouse can be set up and modified very quickly to accommodate today’s dynamic environments, without the need for complex programming. Workers can interact with the robots via touchscreen and send them on their journeys with a push of a button.

[ DHL ] and [ Fetch Robotics ]

The future is now and the future is robots, say the folks from the Institute For The Future. We agree.

[ Suitable Technologies ]

ICYMI3: This week we also featured Iran’s newest humanoid, a dancing, karate-chopping little robot called Surena Mini.


This 5-minute 25-second video from 2002 provides a detailed overview of the X-45A Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle project and features and autonomous formation maneuver over Edwards Air Force Base in California’s Mojave Desert.

[ NASA Dryden ]

If you missed the Kickstarter campaign, it’s not too late to get yourself a Tertill weed-killing robot, developed by Roomba inventor Joe Jones and his team at Franklin Robotics. The robot is available for pre-order on Indiegogo, with delivery estimated for May 2018. 

[ Franklin Robotics ]

EPFL is getting creative with their videos. 

Too creative?

[ EPFL ]

Follow the flip-flops.

[ UT Human Centered Robotics Lab ]

For his internship at Fetch, Kiran Mohan worked on robot localization using Wi-Fi signals.

We’ve previously talked about the importance of robot localization. Kiran Mohan, a master student from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, developed a prototype system using Wi-Fi data to improve robot localization in several ways. Wi-Fi data has proven most useful in allowing a robot to determine an initial estimate of its position within the map. FetchCore already includes the ability to build a Wi-Fi strength map for your facility using the wireless card embedded in the robot. Once such a map exists, the robot can then use a “fingerprint” of the visible Wi-Fi access points to roughly determine the location of the robot within this map. This rough estimate will someday replace the need for users to manually localize robots when they are first powered on. While this project was only a first step towards a production system, it is typical of the type of projects interns can work on at Fetch Robotics. If you are still in school, or a recent grad, and interested in learning more about software engineering for robots, check out internship openings for this fall semester.

[ Fetch Robotics ]

Jeff Holden, chief product officer at Uber, explains why “the concept of Uber Pool is almost as complex as the concept of quantum computing.” Okay, he was joking. But watch his talk to get a glimpse of how Uber uses data and analytics to expand its business.  

[ Steve Jurvetson ]

WeRobotics Global brings together leading practitioners working at the intersection of robotics and social good efforts. Judith Sherman from UNICEF highlighted the field tests being carried out in Malawi, using cargo robotics to transport HIV samples in order to accelerate HIV testing and treatment. UNICEF has also launched an air corridor in Malawi to enable further field-testing of flying robots.

[ WeRobotics ]

The Conversation (0)