Video Friday: Kicking a Robot, TV Drone Crash, and Supernumerary Lightsabers

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

6 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

Erico Guizzo is IEEE Spectrum's Digital Innovation Director.

Video Friday: Kicking a Robot, TV Drone Crash, and Supernumerary Lightsabers
Image: IIT and CMU via YouTube

Last week was a holiday, and we’re at CES this week, but nothing can stop the robot videos. Things should be back to normal around here next week (we hope). Let us know if you have videos or events to suggest, and enjoy today’s Video Friday selection!

ASSISIbf Winter School – January 12-14, 2016 – Lausanne, Switzerland
ASU Rehabilitation Robotics Workshop – February 8-9, 2016 – Tempe, Arizona, USA
The Future of Rescue Simulation Workshop – February 29-4, 2016 – Leiden, Netherlands
HRI 2016 – March 7-10, 2016 – Christchurch, New Zealand
WeRobot 2016 – April 1-2, 2016 – Miami, Fla., USA
National Robotics Week – April 2-10, 2016 – United States

Forget Skynet. This is how the Robopocalypse will start:

Teaching robots how to avoid destruction and despise humanity at the same time is never a good idea. 

Thanks Chris & Alex!

The world’s most advanced bat robot now has membrane wings, just like real bats:

A microprocessor-based onboard computer, a 6 DOF IMU sensor package, five DC motors with encoder feedback for flapping and wing articulation (asymmetric wing folding and leg/tail control), power/comm electronics, carbon-fiber frame, 3D printed parts, and silicone based membrane wings -- all at 92 grams. The robot’s name is the B2 (Bat Bot). No motion capture system was used for indoor closed-loop control flight.

[ Illinois Aerospace Robotics ]

Not only can KAIST’s drone flip itself vertically onto walls to pass through narrow passages, but it’s also fireproof up to 1,000 degrees Celsius:

Notice it flying at the end.

[ KAIST Urban Robotics Lab ]

Somehow we missed this Christmas video with some adorableness from UC Berkeley:

[ UC Berkeley ]

This was bound to happen sooner or later, wasn’t it?

It’s going to be more and more common for things like this to happen, and eventually, someone is going to get a drone to the face and it’s going to be very bad.

[ DIY Drones ]

The Year of CoCoRo 52/52: CoCoRo - The final goals were achieved. This video shows our final demonstrator as it was presented to our reviewers which then granted the CoCoRo project the grade "EXCELLENT" in their final assessment. This video shows the whole CoCoRo system working together: A base station, a "relay-chain" swarm and a search swarm on the ground. All of them communicating and interacting with each other.

This finalizes the Year of CoCoRo and we hope that you had fun watching the outcomes of the project throughout the year on a weekly basis. CoCoRo will live on in the follow-up project subCULTron, so stay tuned about this on the web (, on twitter (@subCULTron) or on Facebook

[ subCULTron ]

Usually I’m skeptical when someone titles their own video “epic,” but I have to admit, this “Star Wars” trailer from MIT robotics is pretty epic:

No robots were harmed in the making of this video... But it doesn’t say anything about humans,

[ Federico Parietti ] via [ MIT Robotics ]

I’m not exactly sure why, but I find this to be really, really cute. I think it’s the noise.

“This video demonstrates an approach for robotic cleaning by scrubbing. Planning algorithms are developed for cleaning stains on a curved object. Removing the stain may require multiple reorientations of the part and some portions of the stain may require multiple cleaning passes. The experimental setup involves two robot arms. The first arm immobilizes the object. The second arm moves the cleaning tool.

The algorithm analyzes the stain and determines the sequence of orientations needed to clean the part based on the kinematic constraints of the robot arm. Each orientation is called a cleaning setup. Our algorithm uses a depth-first branch-andbound search to generate setup plan solutions. We also compute the cleaning trajectories and select the cleaning parameters to maximize the cleaning performance. The algorithm generates multi-pass trajectories by replanning based on the observed cleaning performance. Numerical simulations and cleaning experiments with two Kuka robots are used to validate our approach.”

[ UMD Robotics ]

We saw some cool drone stuff from Qualcomm last year at CES, and they’re promising even more for this year:

The next next generation of Qualcomm drone technology is coming to this year’s CES in Las Vegas. The Qualcomm Snapdragon Flight drone platform will demo new technologies and systems including the autonomous navigation system -- the intelligence to perceive objects in flight paths for safer and more reliable navigation. Watch the video for a sneak peek of the new optical flow camera, visual inertial odmotery, motion planning, obstacle mapping and more.

[ Qualcomm ] via [ Engadget ]

Just in case you have a whole bunch of cups and a robot lying around:

Um, I’m still thirsty, HERB.

[ CMU ]

For Japanese robot builder Hinamitetu, 2016 is going to be the year of the pommel horse robot (!):

[ hinamitetu ]

Baxter can now do graffiti, hooray!

This video demonstrates the skilled capability of a Baxter robot in 2D drawing and 3D light painting tasks. The robot draws computer generated calligraphy and graffiti art with a marker on paper, or traces contours and shapes in the air in a robotized “light painting” performance. The traces are generated through physiologically plausible models of handwriting motions, which are used to guide the motion of the robot. We exploit the kinematic redundancy, compliance and torque control capabilities of the Baxter to generate rapid and fluid drawing movements.

The video builds upon our ongoing research that aims at reproducing a variety of drawing and painting styles on robotic platforms. We are interested in the process and dynamics of human motion that underlie the production of various forms of art, and we are developing computational models that will enable the transfer of complex and personal artistic skills to robots.

We envision the use of the Baxter and other robotic platforms in human-robot collaboration scenarios, in which the (here bi-manual) robot will work alongside with artists, designers, students, by sharing the same canvas, learning from their gestures, and serving as an innovative tool to foster creativity.

[ AutoGraff ] via [ Idiap ]

I think this spherical blimp was a project out of Disney Research at ETH Zurich a while back, but now there seems to be a company built around it, so maybe we’ll see it out in the wild a bit more.

[ Aerotainment Labs ]

Terrible video, interesting robot, if you’re in to knitting stuff:

[ Agnes Roboknit ]

Things I did not know: there is a competition in Japan for tomato picking robots. I think this is the theme song, or something:

And here are a few competition vids:

[ Tomato Robot 2015 ] via [ Kazumichi Moriyama ]

“This is a worldwide first for TEDx, a humanoid robot avatar called Bob delivers this talk on stage, using a system built to help us connect with others when our own physical presence isn’t possible. Dr Paul Bremner and his team from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory have developed a prototype system allowing a person to communicate using a humanoid robot as a social avatar: the robot copies their movements and relays sound and vision, so they are embodied by the robot.”

[ Bristol Robotics Laboratory ] via [ TEDxBristol ]

“IJARS team had the chance to sit for an interview with roboticists and Professors Howie Choset (Carnegie Mellon University) and Seth Hutchinson (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) at this year’s ICRA. The viewers might find interesting to hear what Choset and Hutchinson consider to be the greatest developments in their field, the research they would like to be remembered for, issues in robotics that young students should be tackling these days as well as Hutchinson’s insight on what makes a science publication truly relevant. Also, if you ever wondered what Engineering minds like to do in their free time, why there is a Seth & Howie McDonalds tradition and what it’s about, or what their favorite music or books are, we invite you to watch our interview with this great robotics duo who may even make you laugh out loud.”


“Under the mentorship of director Dena Seidel, a student team from the Rutgers Center for Digital Filmmaking worked for over 18 months in New Jersey, Spain, and the Virgin Islands following a team of researchers as they prepared for the voyage of ‘Scarlet’ -- the first robotic glider to the cross the Atlantic.”

If you don’t want to watch the whole hour, an interesting bit is at about 25 minutes in, when they check up on the glider after months at sea. It’s a mess.

[ Rutgers ]

This talk on soft robot fabrication, by Matthew Borgatti, lead scientist at Super-Releaser, is entitled “My Robot Will Crush You With Its Soft Delicate Hands!” Exclamation point and all. So you know it’s going to be good.

“In this talk Matthew Borgatti, Lead Scientist at Super-Releaser, will take you through the process of turning a puddle of goo into a working soft robot. He will take you through the different mechanisms that can be created, simple processes for fabricating soft robots, and methods for joining elements together into sophisticated assemblies.

Soft robots are slowly trickling out of universities and labs into everyday life. Amazon is experimenting with installing soft grippers on robotic arms to pick any product off a warehouse shelf. DARPA just funded an extensive program to build soft exoskeletons for soldiers to enhance how much they can lift and how long they can march. My lab, Super-Releaser, is developing robotic spacesuit components for NASA as a subcontractor on a SBIR grant. On paper they might seem too complex to whip up at home, but if you’re the kind of person who loved Creepy Crawlers and have access to a 3d printer you can make your very own soft robots.”

[ Super-Releaser Robotics ] via [ Matthew Borgatti ]

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