Whoa: Quadrotors Play Catch With Inverted Pendulum

Watch these quadrotors balance a stick on its end, and then toss it back and forth

1 min read
Whoa: Quadrotors Play Catch With Inverted Pendulum

ETH Zurich has been teaching their quadrotors tricks with inverted pendulums since back in 2011, but this latest video is incredible: somehow, they've managed to get two quadrotors to play catch with one. Holy cow.

So it sounds like the only concession that was made was shock absorbing tips on the pendulum; otherwise, there's no actual trickery going on here, just some very clever programming and top-notch hardware. With that in mind, I wouldn't go out and try this with your AR Drone in your living room or anything; ETH Zurich has a dedicated "flying arena" that enables adaptive precision flying like this. 

We certainly haven't seen the last slice of amazingcake from these bots, so what are they going to do next? Well, here's a potentially impossible suggestion: swap out that single pendulum for a double pendulum, which has a joint in the middle. A quadrotor is of course a totally different system than the one in this video, which is why I'm calling this suggestion "potentially impossible." But it's fun to think about, and if I had a nickel for every time a robot was able to do something that I thought was impossible, I'd be able to buy myself a pony.

Thanks, Markus!

Via [ RoboHub ]

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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

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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