Video Tuesday: BigDog, MABEL, and Quadrotors Landing on Quadrotors

Robots that walk, robots that run, robots that fly, and robots that amusingly fall all over the place: we've got videos

1 min read
Video Tuesday: BigDog, MABEL, and Quadrotors Landing on Quadrotors

It's been a while since we've gotten an update from Boston Dynamics about their BigDog quadruped. And this isn't really an update, I guess, as much as a video of BigDog's noble robotic lineage, with a whole bunch of, shall we say, "outtakes" thrown in for good measure:

[ Boston Dynamics ]

We know that the University of Michigan's MABEL biped robot is fast and all, but it's also had some issues in the past with taking the occasional bad step with painful results. It now looks like MABEL has learned some fancy new footwork, with this demonstration of her ability to not completely faceplant when confronted with a surprise 20cm step:

[ MABEL ]

And lastly, I hope you're not burned out on quadrotors yet, because this is pretty sweet. Daniel Mellinger, Alex Kushleyev, and Vijay Kumar at UPenn's GRASP Lab have taught a big quadrotor to act as a landing (and launching) platform for a little quadrotor. Oh, and there's a bunch of hula-hoop dodging with multiple quadrotors at the end, too:

[ UPenn GRASP Lab ]

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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
LightGreen

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"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.

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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