Inspired by Nature: Autonomous Underwater Robotics

Maryland Researchers Develop Robots With the Same Capabilities as Fish Since he was a child, Derek Paley has been captivated by how shoals of fish move fluidly as a cohesive group, almost as if a single organism. As the Willis H. Young Jr. Professor of Aerospace Engineering Education and director of the Collective Dynamics and Control Laboratory at the University of Maryland, Paley is applying his long-standing source of inspiration to the cooperative control of autonomous vehicles. Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTxS19EofQ0 Fish are particularly interesting for Paley because of their sensory system. He explains that fish have a lateral line system, which is a series of sensors located on their exterior, sometimes appearing on their side as a stripe. With their lateral line sense, fish can perceive the direction and speed of nearby water flow, as well as predators and other obstacles. Paley is equally intrigued by the propulsion system of fish: flapping may be even Continue reading Inspired by Nature: Autonomous Underwater Robotics

Learn to Program Self-Driving Cars (and Help Duckies Commute) With Duckietown

Robotics researchers expand their Duckietown autonomous car course to Kickstarter There is a strong and natural relationship between robots and rubber duckies. Seriously. Being small, cheap, colorful, and pleasingly compliant, duckies became a sort of physical Stanford Bunny—when you want to show the scale of a robot, or give a robot something to visually locate or grasp or something, just toss a duckie in there. This relationship was formalized through the 2016 ICRA conference, where duckies inspired a bunch of videos and some poetry that is surprisingly not terrible.  Since then, duckies have been taking over in robotics—at this point, I’m fairly certain that Andrea Censi at ETH Zurich is held hostage by (and doing the bidding of) a small army of little yellow duckies. This would explain why an entire duckie village full of duckie-sized autonomous cars that you can learn how to program is now on Kickstarter, with Continue reading Learn to Program Self-Driving Cars (and Help Duckies Commute) With Duckietown

Video Friday: Teaching a Robot to Pick Up a Knife, and More

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos 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!): ISR 2018 – August 24-27, 2018 – Shenyang, China BioRob 2018 – August 26-29, 2018 – University of Twente, Netherlands RO-MAN 2018 – August 27-30, 2018 – Nanjing, China ELROB 2018 – September 24-28, 2018 – Mons, Belgium ARSO 2018 – September 27-29, 2018 – Genoa, Italy ROSCon 2018 – September 29-30, 2018 – Madrid, Spain IROS 2018 – October 1-5, 2018 – Madrid, Spain Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

New Engineering Journal from Annual Reviews

The inaugural volume of the Annual Review of Control, Robotics, and Autonomous Systems is now available online! The Annual Review of Control, Robotics, and Autonomous Systems highlights the theoretical and applied research in control and robotics that drives and enriches the engineering of autonomous systems. This new journal is the first of its kind to cover both the broad fields of control and robotics and their fundamental roles in the increasingly important area of autonomous systems. View the full Table of Contents for Volume 1 here: https://www.annualreviews.org/toc/control/1/1 Free online preview is available now. Topics in the first volume cover control and its connections to game theory, distributed optimization, Kalman filtering, geometric mechanics, privacy, data-driven strategies, and deep learning, together with robotics and its connections to manipulation, materials, mechanisms, planning, decision-making, and synthesis. Applications include artificial touch, soft micro and bio-inspired robotics, minimally invasive medical technologies, rehabilitative robotics, autonomous flight, airspace Continue reading New Engineering Journal from Annual Reviews

Haru: An Experimental Social Robot From Honda Research

The Honda Research Institute gives an in-depth look at the design of its newest social robot prototype Social robots have had it tough recently. There are lots of reasons for this, but a big part of it is that it’s a challenge to develop a social robot that’s able to spark long-term user interest without driving initial expectations impractically high. This isn’t just the case for commercial robots—social robots designed for long-term user interaction studies have the same sorts of issues. The Honda Research Institute is well aware of how tricky this is, and researchers there have been working on the design of a prototype social robot that achieves a “balance between human expectation, surface appearance, physical affordance, and robot functionality.” It’s called Haru, and Honda Research has provided a fascinating and detailed look into how they came up with its design.

Aerial-Biped Is a Quadrotor With Legs That Can Fly-Walk

Walking around wouldn’t be nearly so hard if you could just shut gravity off for a bit A couple years ago, we wrote about a robot called BALLU from Dennis Hong at UCLA—essentially a blimp with skinny little legs, BALLU made walking easier by taking gravity out of the equation. If your robot doesn’t weigh anything, you don’t have to worry about falling over, right? Inspired in part by BALLU, researchers from the University of Tokyo have developed a quadrotor with legs called Aerial-Biped. Designed primarily for entertainment, Aerial-Biped enables “a richer physical expression” by automatically generating walking gaits in sync with its quadrotor body.

Video Friday: Harvard’s Peacock Spider Robot, and More

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos 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!): ISR 2018 – August 24-27, 2018 – Shenyang, China BioRob 2018 – August 26-29, 2018 – University of Twente, Netherlands RO-MAN 2018 – August 27-30, 2018 – Nanjing, China ELROB 2018 – September 24-28, 2018 – Mons, Belgium ARSO 2018 – September 27-29, 2018 – Genoa, Italy ROSCon 2018 – September 29-30, 2018 – Madrid, Spain IROS 2018 – October 1-5, 2018 – Madrid, Spain Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

Why the Pursuit of a ‘Killer App’ for Home Robots Is Fraught With Peril

Tim Enwall, head of Misty Robotics, discusses the challenges of developing a personal robot for the mass market This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE. In the past two months, Mayfield Robotics, makers of Kuri the robot, has shut down sales and operations, and Jibo, which has run through more than $70 million of venture funding, announced a significant downsizing of the company. This marks a sad time for the personal/social robot market. There were amazingly talented and passionate people at both of those companies who drove themselves constantly in the pursuit of building awesome products that were well-liked. These roboticists, engineers, and designers were solving some really difficult problems. Now, because these excellent teams with experience and knowledge will likely disperse, more difficult problems will either go unsolved or will be delayed without them. Continue reading Why the Pursuit of a ‘Killer App’ for Home Robots Is Fraught With Peril

Anki’s Vector Is a Little AI-Powered Robot Now on Kickstarter for $200

Is this the personal home robot we’ve been waiting for? No, but Vector will make you smile San Francisco-based robotics company Anki is launching today a new robot called Vector. It drives on little tank treads, has an expressive LCD face, and is constantly moving around, making beeps and bloops. Vector resembles Anki’s previous robot, Cozmo, but is packed with more technology—and character. Anki says Vector is designed as a robot companion and helper for people at home. But don’t expect much: The robot has a tiny voice and can barely push a coffee mug around. Its little arms can lift only a special plastic block. What Vector is good at, Anki says, is engaging with people. The robot can certainly get your attention. At one point during my interview with Anki’s chief strategy officer Patrick De Neale, Vector interrupted us to demand a fist bump. De Neale promptly complied. Vector is available starting today on Kickstarter at a Continue reading Anki’s Vector Is a Little AI-Powered Robot Now on Kickstarter for $200

Explore New Worlds With JPL’s Open Source Rover

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab has adapted a Mars rover design into something that you can build in your garage NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Mars rovers have a special place in my heart. I loved seeing pictures of Sojourner nuzzling up to rocks, and I still wonder whether it managed to drive around the Pathfinder lander after contact was lost. Spirit going silent was heartbreaking, and Opportunity continues to inspire so far beyond its expected lifetime, even as a dust storm threatens to starve it to death. And I particularly remember thinking how insane it was that Curiosity was going to drop onto the surface from a hovering robotic sky crane (!), and then being entirely overwhelmed to watch it happen flawlessly from the media room at JPL.  I’m not the only person who thinks that JPL’s rovers are incredible, and other rover fans have been pestering the roboticists at JPL for Continue reading Explore New Worlds With JPL’s Open Source Rover