• Weekly Robotics #2

    1) ViSP - an open source visual servoing platform library.
    INFO: ViSP (Visual Servoing Platform) helps in developing robotics control systems in which visual tracking is at the heart of the project. ViSP team youtube channel is full of videos with interesting applications (top picks: 1, 2). It’s also worth noting a very well managed project documentation.

    2) DonkeyCar - DIY self driving platform.
    INFO: The project uses off the shelf R/C car that you can modify (add a camera, print 3D parts, program a Raspberry Pi). The project is fully open source and there is a very supportive community maintaining it. Here is a video showing an autonomous donkey race in action.

    3) DARPA Subterranean Challenge.
    INFO: DARPA is organizing a Subterranean Challenge aiming to explore technologies to map, navigate and search underground environments. The final event will take place in 2021 and the finalist will take a $2M USD price.

    4) Caltech engineers herd birds with a drone.
    INFO: The engineers developed an algorithm aiming at making passenger aircrafts takeoffs and landings safer by positioning a with respect to the flock of birds in such way that the whole flock changes the course. Interestingly, during operation the drone has to stay at just the right distance from the flock, if it comes too close the flock will scatter. You can find the full paper here.

    5) PythonRobotics - repository with robotics algorithms. Written in Python.
    INFO: This project by Atsushi Sakai
    showcases various robotics algorithms through nice visualizations. The repository
    seems to contain all the source files needed to replicate the results, making it a great learning resource. If you find this resource helpful please consider supporting the author.

    6) European Space Agency (ESA) is looking for ideas for new space transportation services.
    INFO: ESA is offering feedback on concepts for new commercial space transportation services. The ideas have to be sound, commercially viable and complement existing ESA space transportation programmes and activities. Three outstanding entries received before 14th of September 2018 will win a trip to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to see a launch.

    7) Paper of the week - ROS: an open-source Robot Operating System (2009).
    INFO: ROS (Robot Operating System) is a framework (or a middleware) that supports rapid prototyping of software for robotics systems. The paper introduces the design goals of ROS. It also covers the basic nomenclature (nodes, topics, messages) and provides some usecases. If you want to explore ROS further then the official ROS website
    is probably the best place to start. You will also need a computer (or a virtual machine) running Ubuntu or Debian.

  • Weekly Robotics #1

    1) FLIR, the manufacturer of thermal imaging cameras, offers a free dataset for ADAS (autonomous driver-assistance systems) convolutional neural networks training. The web page below contains a form that you can fill to request the dataset.
    INFO: The dataset contains over 14k images (60% of data captured during the day and 40% during night). Over 10k of captured frames are annotated.

    2) NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory published an open source mars rover project on github.
    INFO: The project is based almost entirely on consumer off the shelf (COTS) parts. The total cost of all the parts is under 2500 USD. The team estimates a minimum of 200 man hours is needed to complete the project. It’s worth to point out high quality of documentation in the project (for example Ackermann steering is presented in a very straightforward way).

    3) Airbus Zephyr High Altitude (high altitude pseudo satellite fixed wing aircraft) completed it’s maiden flight by staying in the air for 25 days 23 hours and 57 minutes.
    INFO: Zephyr is an electric-solar plane with a wingspan of 25 meters (82 feet) and weight of only 75 kg (165 pounds). The plane operates in stratosphere with an average altitude of 21 km (70,000 feet). Here you can see the Zephyr launch.

    4) Disney created a robotic stuntman.
    INFO: Here you can find a paper with stickman - what seems to be the first iteration of this project. The robot uses IMU and a rangefinder for state estimation mid flight and air actuated piston to change it’s moment of inertia.

    5) University of Texas has patented a smart skin, aimed at giving collaborative robots more sensitive tactile feeling than humans.
    INFO: The sensors are made from zinc oxide nanorods, 0.2 micron in diameter and supposedly do not need any external voltage for operation.

    6) A great explanation of how Kalman Filter works.
    INFO: The article relies heavily on visualizations, making it more digestible.

    7) ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst commanded a humanoid robot “Rollin’ Justin” live from ISS (International Space Station). The robot was located in Germany.
    INFO: Rollin’ Justin is a DLR (German Space Center) 200 kg (441 pounds), 1.91 m (6.27 feet) humanoid robot with 51 degrees of freedom. The experiment needs a level of autonomy from the robot. The communication delay is around 800ms therefore the robot needs to operate semi-autonomously. This technology could in the future allow astronauts to be on mars satellites and teleoperating robots that assemble habitats. The robot was using April Tags as means of localization. Couple of times during the experiment robot position estimation was off as it can be observed here: 1, 2. To recover from those issues the robot needs to look at one of many April Tags.

    8) Weekly Robotics survey.
    INFO: Thank you for joining us for the first issue of robotics weekly! Your feedback is very valuable to us and we would appreciate if you could fill this 3 minute survey on your expectations from us. Thank you!