Video Friday: Powered Exoskeleton, Drone Shows, and Soft Robotic Mask

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

Image: Adi Meyer via Vimeo

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!):

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
Singularities of Mechanisms and Robotic Manipulators – September 18-22, 2017 – Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria
ROSCon – September 21-22, 2017 – Vancouver, B.C., Canada
IEEE IROS – September 24-28, 2017 – Vancouver, B.C., Canada
RoboBusiness – September 27-28, 2017 – Santa Clara, Calif., USA
Drone World Expo – October 2-4, 2017 – San Jose, Calif., USA
HAI 2017 – October 17-20, 2017 – Bielefeld, Germany
ICUAS 2017 – October 22-29, 2017 – Miami, Fla., USA

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

I don’t know much about this powered partial exoskeleton called KOMA, except that the company behind it (ATOUN, from Japan) says that it’s designed to help you carry very heavy objects in a way that won’t interfere with your natural movements.

[ ATOUN ] via [ YouTube ]

Jiří Zemánek and Martin Gurtner from the Czech Technical University in Prague won first place in the IEEE CSS video contest (awarded at the IEEE CCTA 2017 conference) for their video demonstrating numerical optimal control on a “flying ball in a hoop” system:

The IEEE CCTA Conference, incidentally, was held on the Kohala Coast in Hawaii, where as far as I know we have not had a major robotics conference recently. Let’s fix that.

Jiří Zemánek ]

Thanks Jiří!

Verity Studios has established itself as a reliable, world-leading provider of indoor drone shows. Its show drones have been featured in a variety of live events, including PARAMOUR, the Broadway show by Cirque du Soleil, where Verity Studios’ Stage Flyer drones performed 398 live shows with more than 7,000 autonomous take-offs, flights, and landings. Verity Studios just unveiled the Synthetic Swarm, a drone show system that combines the same reliable technology successfully pioneered on Broadway with its new Lucie micro drones. These novel micro drones feature powerful lights, yet weigh a mere 49 grams (1.7 ounces), and are both quiet and ultra-safe.

Verity ]

Using the Harvard Biodesign Lab’s soft robotics toolkit, London-based architect and designer Adi Meyer created a customized silicone mask that responds to facial expressions.

Instructions to build your own in the link below.

Instructables ]

Sphero has a couple new Star Wars robots, including an R2-D2 with a pop-out third wheel. This is more amazing than it probably sounds.

Those robots look cool but I did not understand the plot of that video even a little bit.

Sphero ]

David (formerly Hand Arm System) is an anthropomorphic robot developed at DLR that features variable stiffness actuators (VSA) in all its joints. This demo shows David drilling into a block of concrete with a drill hammer. The built in VSA enhance David’s mechanical robustness against external impacts. This allows him to handle the impacts due to the drill hammering with relative ease. The drilling task shown requires both, precise positioning of the tool center point and vibration damping.

[ DLR ]

Recent advances in soft robotics have seen the development of soft pneumatic actuators (SPAs) to ensure that all parts of the robot are soft, including the functional parts. These SPAs have traditionally used increased pressure in parts of the actuator to initiate movement, but today a team from NCCR Robotics and RRL, EPFL publish a new kind of SPA, one that uses vacuum, in ScienceRobotics.

Science Robotics ] via [ EPFL ]

UT Austin’s Draco liquid-cooled leg is starting to scare me:

This video reports trials to achieve the maximum power capabilities of the Draco liquid cooled leg. The leg is able to lift 32 kg at relatively high speeds. It reached the limits of the power supply prompting us to build a new power supply to double the amount of weight to be lifted.


Researchers from industry and universities across the nation have rallied around a collaborative technology alliance with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory since 2008. A research program called Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology, or MAST, came to its conclusion during a capstone event of presentations and demonstrations of both ground and air micro-robots Aug. 22-24.

[ Army Research Lab ]

Inkyu Sa from ETH Zurich wrote us to share a cost-effective and research-grade visual-inertial odometry aided vertical taking-off and landing (VTOL) platform that you can build yourself:

This video presents a complete visual-inertial (VI-) odometry-aided MAV platform that makes use of off-the-shelf elements such as the device itself, a computer, and VI-sensor. In addition, complete documentation is provided which records every step taken to build the MAV. The fundamental idea underlying this project is to contribute to the robotics community by releasing the knowledge and skills that we have learned while running this project. Therefore, this project is completely open-source; including software packages, 3D models, and all parts.

[ Github ]

Thanks Inkyu!

Has life ever existed anywhere else in the solar system? Perhaps on Mars? Scientists from around the world are currently trying to develop ways to figure that out. On Earth, we know that signs of ancient life can sometimes be found within certain types of rocks, and so one of the best ways to find out if there has ever been life on Mars may be to look inside similar rocks found there.

However, the miniaturized instruments used on space missions will always have more limited abilities than sophisticated laboratories on Earth, which is why there is a strong desire to bring samples back to Earth to be analyzed. Before being able to return these samples, though, we first need to test and determine how to best select and collect them. From October 31 to November 18, 2016, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is leading a Mars sample return simulation in the Utah desert where these key activities will be practiced. Multiple collaborators from academia, industry, and international space agencies, will be involved.

[ CSA ]

The Cozmo Collector’s Edition looks a bit like a certain sci-fi movie android. Worried he’ll become self-aware and destroy humanity? Let’s terminate those concerns right now.

For a second there, I was convinced they’d taught Cozmo to play chess.

[ Anki ]

During his internship with Open Robotics, Adam Allevato ported a 3D object detector into ROS 2 and made it run on live depth camera data. The detector leverages ROS 2 features such as intraprocess communication and shared memory to run with lower overhead than the ROS 1 version. Using the ros1_bridge, we can also interface the detector with ROS 1 tools (like Rviz) if desired.

By porting a few other packages for vision and robot motion, we are now able to perform vision-based manipulation using an industrial robot arm 100% ROS 2 code. We like to call this the “picky robot” because it can preferentially push food it doesn’t like off the table and into the trash.

I also do this.

[ OSRF ]

I do appreciate robots that, in the course of doing exactly what they have been designed and programmed to do, end up destroying themselves:

[ S***ty Engineer ]

Kaiserslautern Technical University used Engineered Art’s IDE and RoboThespian as a platform to develop their own software that allows RoboThespian to recognise dynamic gestures, facial recognition, parse third-party databases to name a few. These all combine to make a completely automated interaction.

[ RoboThespian ] via [ TUK ]

The factory of the future: what will collaborative robots look like in 2030? Hear what Jim Lawton, Rethink Robotics’ Chief Product and Marketing Officer, had to say about this topic at Supply Chain Insights Global Summit.

Huh. I was hoping for more holograms and lasers and things that are radioactive. Meanwhile, here’s what some of the collaborative robots of the present have been up to:

[ Rethink Robotics ]

Robots are now capable of creating art and making decisions about beauty. We’ll visit with one of the world’s leading robot artist builders Pindar Van Arman and he’ll show us how his machines see the world and make creative decisions as they paint.

[ VICE News ]

The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago has a huge robot exhibit going on right now, and here’s a tour of it with one of the poor dudes who has to make sure all of the robots are a maximum of charged and a minimum of broken:

[ MSI ] via [ YouTube ]

Could an AI pass the entrance exam for the University of Tokyo? Noriko Arai oversees a project that wants to find out.

Meet Todai Robot, an AI project that performed in the top 20 percent of students on the entrance exam for the University of Tokyo — without actually understanding a thing. While it’s not matriculating anytime soon, Todai Robot’s success raises alarming questions for the future of human education. How can we help kids excel at the things that humans will always do better than AI?

[ TED ]

Article by Evan Ackerman and Erico Guizzo,

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