Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive

In these pages you can find all Weekly Robotics Newsletter issues released so far. This webpage will be always up to date, however if you would like to make sure that you won't miss any future issues then you can subscribe to our newsletter using the form above or you can subscribe via RSS.

  • Weekly Robotics #93

    Issue 93

    Jordan, one of the readers has won AWS JPL Open Source Rover Competition (featured in the issue 68). Congrats! If you happen to be hiring bright minds then you know what to do! The most clicked last week was the Weekly Robotics YouTube channel with 13.8% opens.

    1) Rethinking Cruise’s AV Development Loop During COVID-19.
    Medium
    INFO: Here is yet another interesting blog post from Cruise. This time Tom Boyd discusses how using simulation is useful in Cruise’s workflow, especially when they can’t deploy their cars due to a pandemic. I didn’t realize how important Magic Tire Formula was for realistic simulations - if you’d like to learn more about it then I found racer.nl description very good!

    2) [Hello World!] - Simulation.
    StreetDrone
    INFO: While we are on the subject of autonomous cars and simulation: StreetDrone has released their robotics Renault Twizy Gazebo simulation setup. Twizy is a lightweight electric car, making it autonomous is a very interesting idea, especially that they are relatively cheap. I’ll be definitely looking out for more news about StreetDrone’s progress on these cars.

    3) ros-ydlidar-x4-docker.
    GitHub
    INFO: Patrick, one of the readers of Weekly Robotics, had created a repository with a docker image of ydlidar ROS driver. This repo can be a good starter if you are looking to use docker with ROS.

    4) Spherical Quadruped Arduino Robot.
    Instructables
    INFO: This instructable contains instructions and a gallery of a spherical quadruped robot that you can build yourself. Each leg of this quadruped is controlled by 2 servos, bringing the total amount of servos used to 10 (there is one servo used for head movement and one used for doors). This build looks like a good weekend project!

    5) A Fast Introduction to Robotics (v 2.0).
    Medium
    INFO: Harsh Maithani has put together a huge list of robotics resources: books, mailing lists, journals, conferences, tools etc. I’m super grateful Weekly Robotics is a part of this list and I’ve already included Harsh’s list in Awesome Weekly Robotics repo.

    6) Mech Suit Field Trials - Episode 1 - Giant Mech Crushes a Car.
    YouTube
    INFO: If you liked the story of MegaBots that I’ve featured last week then you might like this giant mech “prosthesis” from Furrion Exo-Bionics. There are not many details on this robot but it weighs 8k lbs (~3.5k kg) and it seems to be powered by LiOn battery packs. Big thanks to Julius for the information about this video!

    7) CPP Optimizations Diary.
    CPP Optimizations INFO: Davide Faconti, an author of such packages as PlotJuggler (seriously if you ever have to plot any ROS or PX4 data look no further, this is the best graphing tool I’ve ever used) and BehaviorTree.CPP, had created a blog with examples of C++ code optimizations. Definitely worth checking out if you happen to be writing code for robots!

    8) Publication of the Week - OmniTact - A Multi-Directional High-Resolution Touch Sensor (2020).
    UC Berkeley
    INFO: Researchers from UC Berkeley are developing an optical tactile sensor that uses 5 micro cameras to observe deformation of a gel skin coating in multiple directions. Since the cameras used provide a resolution of 400x400 pixels the resulting images seem to be very detailed and a 360° horizontal and 270° vertical field of view should provide good feedback all around the sensor. You can see a 10 minute video that nicely summarizes the paper on YouTube.

    Careers

    1) Small Robot Company (Salisbury, UK) - Robotics Engineer.
    INFO: Small Robot Company is reimagining farming with robotics and artificial intelligence. Our vision is to make food production sustainable, reducing farming’s impact on the environment and increasing farm outputs globally. Our farmbots Tom, Dick and Harry will plant, feed and weed arable crops autonomously, with minimal waste.

    2) Amazon (Berlin, Germany) - Applied Scientist, Robotics.
    INFO: The Robotics AI team at Amazon is building high-performance, real-time robotic systems that can perceive, learn and act intelligently alongside humans, at Amazon scale.

  • Weekly Robotics #92

    Issue 92

    I’ve started a WeeklyRobotics YouTube channel that I kicked off with an Astrobee teaser video. Is a video like this something that you would find interesting? My idea for this mini project is to create a series of < 1 minute videos highlighting interesting things about some robotics projects and as always providing a heaps of links for further research. If you love or hate this idea then I’d like to hear from you! You can send me an e-mail at mat@weeklyrobotics.com. The most clicked last week was fastbook.ai notebooks with 13.8% opens.

    1) Dead Robots - MegaBots.
    Medium
    INFO: Conrad Gray, the author of H+ Weekly had created a new series telling stories of failed robots and companies behind them. In this article Conrad tells the story of MegaBots - a company that was building giant fighting robots. I like how well researched this article is!

    2) Use Articulation Bodies to Easily Prototype Industrial Designs with Realistic Motion and Behavior.
    Unity
    INFO: Unity, a 3D game engine, is becoming more and more robotics friendly. In the next release Unity will support articulated joints, making it easier to create realistic robot arm simulations. If you happen to work with ROS then ROS# is a set of libraries, maintained by Siemens, that you can use to bridge ROS and Unity3D.

    3) Self-reconfiguring Modular Robot.
    Wikipedia
    INFO: Julius pointed out to me that the Wikipedia page on self-reconfiguring modular robots is a very good read with many examples of physical systems created (among them Roombots, about which I chatted during my interview with Auke Ijspeert).

    4) Patent approved for Posable Hubs for Robotic Platforms.
    CSIRO
    INFO: These posable hubs for mobile robots allow to change the chassis pose using actuators attached to the wheel rim.

    5) Porting a Project from ROS1 to ROS2 — Our Experience.
    Medium
    INFO: In this post Łukasz Mitka from Husarion describes the issues they’ve solved when looking to support ROS2 in their GUI tool.

    6) Inspired by Cheetahs, Researchers Build Fastest Soft Robots yet.
    technology.org
    INFO: Looking at the video this galloping robot was way faster than I was expecting based on all the soft robots I’ve seen up to date. I’m curious how a design like this can be scaled to perform any of the functions mentioned in the article (search and rescue, industrial manufacturing).

    7) Publication of the Week - Design and Autonomous Stabilization of a Ballistically Launched Multirotor (2019).
    arXiv
    INFO: This is a paper is an update to the “Caltech and JPL Firing Quadrotors Out of Cannons” article that you might have seen in issue 66. In this iteration of the project SQUID is a 3.3kg hexacopter that can be launched from a T-Shirt cannon at 12m/s. Researchers calculated that the aircraft experiences 21g acceleration on launch (the IMU used saturated at 16g) and the maximum height achieved with this system was 32m (104 feet). ROVIO is used for active stabilization using the onboard camera and the IMU - the steps that need to get the VIO readings are interesting - you’ll find more info about it in section IV. You can find the videos with launches on YouTube.

    Announcements

    1) Hackaday Prize 2020.
    Supplyframe
    INFO: Hackaday Prize 2020 is on! Hackaday Prize is a worldwide hardware design challenge focused on globally impactful innovation. This year, we are partnering with leading nonprofits to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems across conservation, disaster relief, renewable resources, and assistive devices. The Hackaday Prize connects you to engineers, expert mentors, and other powerful resources to develop dynamic solutions for those who need it most. You can enter the competition until August 31st.

  • Weekly Robotics #91

    Issue 91

    There is a brainstorm right now for the name of the next ROS 2 release. I’m quite bummed Gigantic Gamera can’t be used due to it being an external IP. It would make the cool name though! The most clicked link last week was the Autoware ROS2 course with 14.0% opens.

    1) Metric vs Imperial Units: How NASA Lost a 327 Million Dollar Mission to Mars.
    Everyday Astronaut
    INFO: Here is a thought provoking video/article from Everyday Astronaut, where Tim Dodd talks about the Mars climate observer mission and how multiple errors had led to the agency losing contact with the spacecraft.

    2) Guest article: A Story of Autonomous Logistics.
    ROS Industrial
    INFO: Here is a short story how StreetScooter is developing autonomous logistics using ROS - starting with follow me delivery.I haven’t been exploring Hardware In the Loop applications for quite a while now but I’m glad companies still make a very good use of this concept!

    3) The fastai Book - Draft.
    GitHub
    INFO: The draft of a fastai book is available for free on GitHub (be sure to check the licence though). These notes are used by Jeremy Howard in this $2k course and will be the basis of this O’Reilly book.

    4) RoboCut: Hot-wire Cutting with Robot-controlled Flexible Rods [SIGGRAPH 2020].
    YouTube (Simon Duenser)
    INFO: ABB YuMi sounds like a perfect platform for an application like this (if you don’t know hot wire cutting - it’s when you pass current through a wire to heat it up and then use it to cut polystyrene foam - good stuff for your fixed wing airframes!). This work has been performed by researchers at ETH Zurich, you can find a PDF with their paper here. Every year I’m looking forward to the SIGGRAPH demonstrators, even though most of them are related to computer graphics I love seeing the progress in this domain and find lots of the videos very satisfying to watch. Here you can see videos with the technical preview of this year’s papers.

    5) naminukas Gallery.
    Hackaday
    INFO: Here is a gallery showing an interesting design of a robot that can walk, climb walls and even drive! I highly recommend going through all the files here!

    6) Robotic Rover Uses ‘Rear Rotor Pedaling’ to Avoid Sand Traps.
    The Robot Report
    INFO: “Developers have built a new robot known as the “Mini Rover,” which has appendages that can be lifted and wheels that can wiggle. They have used the rover to test complex locomotion techniques to help it climb hills covered with granular material – and avoid the risk of getting ignominiously stuck on some remote planet or moon”.

    7) Publication of the Week - A Study on the Challenges of Using Robotics Simulators for Testing (2020).
    arXiv
    INFO: This paper from Researchers from School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University sums up the survey of 82 Robotics developers on their usage of simulation tools. Interestingly 85% of the survey participants use simulation for testing and only 60% use it as a part of test automation.

    Careers

    1) Aeolus Robotics (Taipei, Taiwan) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Founded to bring the first generation of multi-purpose robot assistants into service across the globe, Aeolus Robotics is a global company with offices in Taiwan, Poland, Austria and the USA. Integrating world-class, world-wide AI and Robot Systems genius with Taiwanese manufacturing aptitude, we are breaking new ground in general-purpose commercial-consumer robotics with capabilities in unstructured “human” spaces.

    2) Pollen Robotics (Bordeaux, France) - Business Developer.
    INFO: Back in 2013, we started with Poppy, the first 3D printed open-source humanoid robot and since then, we have been dedicated to creating open-source, open science and open data products. We work with scientists, artists and innovators to explore usages and make the robotics revolution an opportunity for everyone. Our newest addition is Reachy, an expressive open source humanoid robot that’s awesome for human/robot interaction and object manipulation. It is built with prepackaged AI and modular robotics that allow you to kickstart any real-world application.

    Announcements

    1) NASA Wants Your Help Designing a Venus Rover Concept.
    NASA JPL
    INFO: “NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, under a grant from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, is running a public challenge to develop an obstacle avoidance sensor for a possible future Venus rover. The “Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover” challenge is seeking the public’s designs for a sensor that could be incorporated into the design concept. Participants will have an opportunity to win a first-place prize of $15,000. Second place wins $10,000; and third place, $5,000. JPL is working with the NASA Tournament Lab to execute the challenge on the heroX crowdsourcing platform. Submissions will be accepted through May 29, 2020.”

  • Weekly Robotics #90

    Issue 90

    Last week I’ve asked about the IR tracking camera used in the “surgery” robot. Many thanks to Rokus who identified the camera as Ultra Leap! The most clicked last week was pupper - the low cost open source quadruped with 18.5% opens.

    1) How Many Jobs Do Robots Really Replace?
    MIT
    INFO: I think that’s an article all of us involved in making robots should read. Based on the research performed by Daron Acemoglu, an economist from MIT, adding a single robot to the workforce replaces 3.3 jobs across the US on average.

    2) Don’t Fear the Robot.
    Nautilus
    INFO: A very thoughtful and well-written piece by Joe Jones, who developed Roomba (or DustPuppy). I’ve really liked the explanation of how difficult odometry was to pull off 20 years ago and how it would add $1k cost to the platform. “Just program the robot to remember where it’s been and not go there again” - this sounds like something I’ve been hearing a lot and it always reminds me of this xkcd strip. The article is well worth the read, I found the “three principles the team followed while developing Roomba” very refreshing.

    3) Meet Moxie, a Social Robot That Helps Kids With Social-Emotional Learning.
    IEEE Spectrum
    INFO: While reading the previous article on doing a single thing well I’ve remembered this article about a social robot from Embodied that is meant to help kids with social-emotional development. Since it’s meant to be used up to once a day for a short period of time I can imagine it can be easier to get this right. I’m looking forward to some non-scripted demonstrators!

    4) ArduBee, a Ready-To-Fly Micro drone for Education and Swarming.
    discuss.ardupilot.org
    INFO: Here is an interesting project from LimnousBees - a ArduPilot enabled micro drone with PCB as the frame. It could be a very nice research platform, especially if it indeed offers 45 minutes to 1hr flight time. My only concern with this design is that if you crash and break the PCB (I’m having flashbacks to the many drone arms that I’ve broken) you will likely need to replace the whole thing. If you like this type of drones but can’t wait for ArduBee launch then Crazyflie is the closest thing I know to this concept but is way smaller.

    5) Self-Driving Cars with ROS and Autoware.
    Apex.AI
    INFO: Apex.AI will be releasing a course on self-driving cars and ROS2. Can’t wait!

    6) SQuad: A miniature robot that can walk and climb obstacles.
    TechXplore
    INFO: Here is an interesting idea: creating a soft robot body so that it’s easier to climb obstacles.

    7) Publication of the Week - How Can Robots Help Us? (2020).
    YouTube (Chris Atkeson)
    INFO: Here is a lecture Chris Atkeson gave to students (grades 5-9) gave on Zoom. The lecture contains many interesting vintage robot videos. Something I never realised before is that Atlas cracked its shell during one of the agility demos (you can see it around 11:30 in the lecture). In the lecture you will also find some interesting facts about inflatable robots and Baymax.