Video Friday: Boston Dynamics, Autonomous Drone, and Robot Drum Man

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos Photo: Boston Dynamics 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!): International Symposium on Medical Robotics – March 1-3, 2018 – Atlanta, Ga., USA HRI 2018 – March 5-8, 2018 – Chicago, Ill., USA US National Robotics Week – April 7-17, 2018 – United States Xconomy Robo Madness – April 12, 2018 – Bedford, Mass., USA NASA Swarmathon – April 17-19, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA RoboSoft 2018 – April 24-28, 2018 – Livorno, Italy ICARSC 2018 – April 25-27, 2018 – Torres Vedras, Portugal NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 14-18, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos. Awww, a SpotMini using Continue reading Video Friday: Boston Dynamics, Autonomous Drone, and Robot Drum Man

Robonaut Has Been Broken for Years, and Now NASA Is Bringing It Home

A mysterious hardware problem has kept the ISS Robonaut out of action since at least 2015, so it’s returning to Earth for a fix Photo: NASA In February of 2011, NASA launched Robonaut 2 to the International Space Station. It was a huge achievement for the robotics team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. There had been other robots in space, but Robonaut was the first advanced humanoid to ever go on a mission beyond Earth. On board the ISS, the robot was intended to eventually work side by side with astronauts, performing some of the dull and repetitive tasks that take up a significant amount of time that the humans on the station could instead be spending on science and discovery. For a while, things went well. The robot was unboxed from its protective foam packaging, and set up in the Destiny laboratory module. It was powered up for the first Continue reading Robonaut Has Been Broken for Years, and Now NASA Is Bringing It Home

AI2-THOR Interactive Simulation Teaches AI About Real World

AI2-THOR, an interactive simulation based on home environments, can prepare AI for real-world challenges Image: Roozbeh Mottaghi, Eric Kolve / Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence Training a robot butler to make the perfect omlette could require breaking a lot of eggs and throwing out many imperfect attempts in a real-life kitchen. That’s why researchers have been rolling out virtual training grounds as a more efficient alternative to putting AI agents through costly and time-consuming experiments in the real world. Virtual environments could prove especially useful in training the most popular AI based on machine learning algorithms that often require thousands of trial-and-error runs to learn new skills. Companies such as Waymo have already built their own internal simulators with virtual roads and traffic intersections to train their AI to safely take the wheel of self-driving cars. But a new, open-source virtual training ground called AI2-THOR enables AI agents to learn how to interact with objects in familiar home Continue reading AI2-THOR Interactive Simulation Teaches AI About Real World

Skydio Demonstrates Incredible Obstacle-Dodging Full Autonomy With New R1 Consumer Drone

The Skydio R1 is years ahead of just about any other autonomous drone we’ve ever seen Image: Skydio Almost two years ago, a startup called Skydio posted some video of a weird-looking drone autonomously following people as they jogged and biked along paths and around trees. Even without much in the way of detail, this was exciting for three reasons: First, the drone was moving at a useful speed and not crashing into stuff using only onboard sensing and computing, and second, the folks behind Skydio included Adam Bry and Abe Bachrach, who worked on high-speed autonomous flight at MIT before cofounding Project Wing at Google[x] (now just called X). The third reason we were excited about Skydio’s drone was that, as much as it looked like a research project, it was actually designed to be commercialized, and today, Skydio is (finally!) announcing their first product: the R1, a fully Continue reading Skydio Demonstrates Incredible Obstacle-Dodging Full Autonomy With New R1 Consumer Drone

Modeling Uncertainty Helps MIT’s Drone Zip Around Obstacles

This drone keeps track of what it doesn’t know to quickly plan aggressive maneuvers Photo: Jonathan How/MIT CSAILCatch that drone! It’s not too hard to make a drone that can fly very fast, and it’s not too hard to make a drone that can avoid obstacles. Making a drone that can do both at once is much more difficult, but it’s necessary in order for them to be real-world useful. At MIT CSAIL, Pete Florence (in Russ Tedrake’s lab) has developed a new motion planning framework called NanoMap, which uses a sequence of 3D snapshots to allow fast-moving (10 m/s) drones to safely navigate around obstacles even if they’re not entirely sure where they are. Here’s a video of MIT’s drone in action. Don’t worry if you don’t catch all the details, as we’ll take a crack at explaining what’s going on afterwards: I don’t mind telling you, this is Continue reading Modeling Uncertainty Helps MIT’s Drone Zip Around Obstacles

Video Friday: SpaceX’s Double Booster Landing, Drone Taxi, and Robot Haka

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos Photo: SpaceX 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!): International Symposium on Medical Robotics – March 1-3, 2018 – Atlanta, Ga., USA HRI 2018 – March 5-8, 2018 – Chicago, Ill., USA NASA Swarmathon – April 17-19, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA RoboSoft 2018 – April 24-28, 2018 – Livorno, Italy ICARSC 2018 – April 25-27, 2018 – Torres Vedras, Portugal NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 14-18, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos. It’s only February, and the most stupefyingly incredible display of autonomous robotics we’ll see all year has almost certainly happened already: The center Continue reading Video Friday: SpaceX’s Double Booster Landing, Drone Taxi, and Robot Haka

You Can’t Touch Harvard’s New Ambulatory MicroRobot

Because it’s HAMR time! Photo: Harvard Microrobotics Lab My, my, my, my we just got hit, so hard  By this robot, from Harvard With sweet, autonomy  In its mind to drive and four hype feet It looks good, and we’ll bring you now A super dope robot from Beantown And it’s known as such: This is a bot, you can’t touch. Stop. It’s HAMR time. Here’s a bit of background on the Harvard Ambulatory MicroRobot, or HAMR (various incarnations of which Harvard has been working on for years), just to get you properly caught up: One of the new and exciting things about HAMR in 2018 is the introduction of HAMR-F, which features onboard power and a first major step towards full autonomy. Previous versions of HAMR (we’ve written about some of them in the past) were mostly tethered and not particularly autonomous, which was okay, because Harvard was focusing Continue reading You Can’t Touch Harvard’s New Ambulatory MicroRobot

Cleo Robotics Demonstrates Uniquely Clever Ducted Fan Drone

This donut-shaped drone, not technically known as a dronut, offers a tasty combination of safety and ease of use Photo: Evan Ackerman/IEEE SpectrumCleo drone prototype at CES 2017. At last year’s CES, Cleo Robotics was showing prototypes of a palm-sized drone with a design unlike anything we’d ever seen. Shaped like a donut, the Cleo drone is essentially a ducted fan, with a pair of completely enclosed propellers (one on top of the other) and then a camera, battery, and electronics housed inside the shell. It’s compact (95 mm in diameter, 33 mm thick, 90 grams), elegant, and inherently safe, since the nasty spinny bits are all tucked away. With fewer motors than conventional quadrotors, it promises to be more efficient as well, and quite possibly cheaper. But if you look closely at the picture, you’ll probably end up with the same question that I did: How the heck does Continue reading Cleo Robotics Demonstrates Uniquely Clever Ducted Fan Drone

Why Ethical Robots Might Not Be Such a Good Idea After All

The risks that a robot’s ethics might be compromised by unscrupulous actors are so great as to raise serious doubts over the wisdom of embedding ethical decision making in real-world safety critical robots Photo: Bristol Robotics Lab 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. This week my colleague Dieter Vanderelst presented our paper: “The Dark Side of Ethical Robots” at AIES 2018 in New Orleans. I blogged about Dieter’s very elegant experiment here, but let me summarize. With two NAO robots he set up a demonstration of an ethical robot helping another robot acting as a proxy human, then showed that with a very simple alteration of the ethical robot’s logic it is transformed into a distinctly unethical robot—behaving either competitively or aggressively toward the proxy human. Here are our paper’s key conclusions: The ease of transformation Continue reading Why Ethical Robots Might Not Be Such a Good Idea After All

Drones That Smash Into Obstacles Can Be a Good and Useful Thing

The usefulness of bumbly, bouncy microdrones Image: Vijay Kumar Lab/UPennJust like bees, these microdrones can bump into things, including each other, and continue flying without a problem. A little over a year ago, we wrote about some clumsy-looking but really very clever research from Vijay Kumar’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania. That project showed how small drones with just protective cages and simple sensors can handle obstacles by simply running into them, bouncing around a bit, and then moving on. The idea is that you don’t have to bother with complex sensors when hitting obstacles just doesn’t matter, which bees figured out about a hundred million years ago. Over the past year, Yash Mulgaonkar, Anurag Makineni, and Luis Guerrero-Bonilla (all in Kumar’s lab) have come up with a bunch of different ways in which smashing into obstacles can actually be a good and useful thing. From making maps to increased agility Continue reading Drones That Smash Into Obstacles Can Be a Good and Useful Thing