Video Friday: CMU Team Prepares for DARPA Subterranean Challenge

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 few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!): DARPA SubT Urban Circuit – February 18-27, 2020 – Olympia, Wash., USA HRI 2020 – March 23-26, 2020 – Cambridge, U.K. ICARSC 2020 – April 15-17, 2020 – Ponta Delgada, Azores ICRA 2020 – May 31-4, 2020 – Paris, France ICUAS 2020 – June 9-12, 2020 – Athens, Greece CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – Moscow, Russia Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

SENSE.nano awards seed grants in optoelectronics, interactive manufacturing

SENSE.nano has announced the recipients of the third annual SENSE.nano seed grants. This year’s grants serve to advance innovations in sensing technologies for augmented and virtual realities (AR/VR) and advanced manufacturing systems. A center of excellence powered by MIT.nano, SENSE.nano received substantial interest in its 2019 call for proposals, making for stiff competition. Proposals were reviewed and evaluated by a committee consisting of industry and academia thought-leaders and were selected for funding following significant discussion. Ultimately, two projects were awarded $75,000 each to further research related to detecting movement in molecules and monitoring machine health.  “SENSE.nano strives to convey the breadth and depth of sensing research at MIT,” says Brian Anthony, co-leader of SENSE.nano, associate director of MIT.nano, and a principal research scientist in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “As we work to grow SENSE.nano’s research footing and to attract partners, it is encouraging to know that so much important research — Continue reading SENSE.nano awards seed grants in optoelectronics, interactive manufacturing

Iran Unveils Its Most Advanced Humanoid Robot Yet

A little over a decade ago, researchers at the University of Tehran introduced a rudimentary humanoid robot called Surena. An improved model capable of walking, Surena II, was announced not long after, followed by the more capable Surena III in 2015. Now the Iranian roboticists have unveiled Surena IV. The new robot is a major improvement over previous designs. A video highlighting its capabilities shows the robot mimicking a person’s pose, grasping a water bottle, and writing its name on a whiteboard. Surena is also shown taking a group selfie with its human pals.

How We Trained a Deep Neural Pilot to Autonomously Fly the Skydio Drone

A version of this article was originally published on Medium. The views expressed here are solely those of the authors and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE. We here at Skydio have been developing and deploying machine learning systems for years due to their ability to scale and improve with data. However, to date our learning systems have only been used for interpreting information about the world; in this post, we present our first machine learning system for actually acting in the world. Using a novel learning algorithm, the Skydio autonomy engine, and only 3 hours of “off-policy” logged data, we trained a deep neural network pilot that is capable of filming and tracking a subject while avoiding obstacles.

MIT researchers identify security vulnerabilities in voting app

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in using internet and mobile technology to increase access to the voting process. At the same time, computer security experts caution that paper ballots are the only secure means of voting. Now, MIT researchers are raising another concern: They say they have uncovered security vulnerabilities in a mobile voting application that was used during the 2018 midterm elections in West Virginia. Their security analysis of the application, called Voatz, pinpoints a number of weaknesses, including the opportunity for hackers to alter, stop, or expose how an individual user has voted. Additionally, the researchers found that Voatz’s use of a third-party vendor for voter identification and verification poses potential privacy issues for users. The findings are described in a new technical paper by Michael Specter, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and a member of Continue reading MIT researchers identify security vulnerabilities in voting app

“Sensorized” skin helps soft robots find their bearings

For the first time, MIT researchers have enabled a soft robotic arm to understand its configuration in 3D space, by leveraging only motion and position data from its own “sensorized” skin. Soft robots constructed from highly compliant materials, similar to those found in living organisms, are being championed as safer, and more adaptable, resilient, and bioinspired alternatives to traditional rigid robots. But giving autonomous control to these deformable robots is a monumental task because they can move in a virtually infinite number of directions at any given moment. That makes it difficult to train planning and control models that drive automation. Traditional methods to achieve autonomous control use large systems of multiple motion-capture cameras that provide the robots feedback about 3D movement and positions. But those are impractical for soft robots in real-world applications. In a paper being published in the journal IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, the researchers describe Continue reading “Sensorized” skin helps soft robots find their bearings

Automated system can rewrite outdated sentences in Wikipedia articles

A system created by MIT researchers could be used to automatically update factual inconsistencies in Wikipedia articles, reducing time and effort spent by human editors who now do the task manually. Wikipedia comprises millions of articles that are in constant need of edits to reflect new information. That can involve article expansions, major rewrites, or more routine modifications such as updating numbers, dates, names, and locations. Currently, humans across the globe volunteer their time to make these edits.   In a paper being presented at the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, the researchers describe a text-generating system that pinpoints and replaces specific information in relevant Wikipedia sentences, while keeping the language similar to how humans write and edit. The idea is that humans would type into an interface an unstructured sentence with updated information, without needing to worry about style or grammar. The system would then search Wikipedia, locate the appropriate Continue reading Automated system can rewrite outdated sentences in Wikipedia articles

Maintaining the equipment that powers our world

Most people only think about the systems that power their cities when something goes wrong. Unfortunately, many people in the San Francisco Bay Area had a lot to think about recently when their utility company began scheduled power outages in an attempt to prevent wildfires. The decision came after devastating fires last year were found to be the result of faulty equipment, including transformers. Transformers are the links between power plants, power transmission lines, and distribution networks. If something goes wrong with a transformer, entire power plants can go dark. To fix the problem, operators work around the clock to assess various components of the plant, consider disparate data sources, and decide what needs to be repaired or replaced. Power equipment maintenance and failure is such a far-reaching problem it’s difficult to attach a dollar sign to. Beyond the lost revenue of the plant, there are businesses that can’t operate, Continue reading Maintaining the equipment that powers our world