Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [11/20]

  • Weekly Robotics #38


    0) Anki Addresses Shutdown.
    INFO: Back in the issue 37 we mentioned Anki closing down. The Anki addressed the shutdown in a pop up window on their website linked above. According to the statement Anki has contracted most senior leaders and engineers to provide a long term support for the devices. We will update you on any new information we find about Anki shut down.

    1) A Comprehensive List of 3D Sensors Commonly Leveraged in ROS Development.
    INFO: This ROS-Industrial page contains a list of affordable ROS-compatible 3D sensors. If you are looking for 3D sensors for your project this page might be a good first step.

    2) Microsoft Launches a New Platform for Building Autonomous Robots.
    INFO: At Build developer conference Microsoft announced an Azure-based platform that is said to provide AI solutions for automation tasks. You can find the project website here.

    3) Digital Fabrication of Soft Actuated Objects by Machine Knitting 2019.
    Morphing Matter Lab
    INFO: This work done by Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University explores computationally-controlled machine knitting. By integrating tendons into the design the authors are able to create actuated soft objects. We recommend watching the two videos in the linked page and if you would like to know more - the page also has a link to the publication.

    4) Bobble-Bot.
    INFO: Bobble-Bot is a self balancing robot built with Raspberry Pi 3B, brushless DC motors and is running ROS (according to the article the authors are eyeing ROS2 implementation too). We enjoyed the comparison of non-real time and real time control that can be found in this log entry. You can find the project repository on GitHub. The project comes with a Gazebo model, allowing you to simulate the robot yourself.

    5) The UZH-FPV Drone Racing Dataset.
    Robot Perception Group
    INFO: The above dataset provides camera images, IMU data, ground truth from a laser tracker, event data from an event camera and high resolution images from the pilot’s FPV camera. The goal of this dataset is to help advance the state of the art in high speed state estimation. At the moment the data is only available as a rosbag (a recording of ROS messages).

    6) This Robot Hummingbird Is Almost as Agile as the Real Thing.
    INFO: Researchers from Purdue University’s Bio-Robotics Lab have developed a robotic hummingbird. The robot weights only 12g and has a size of an actual hummingbird. In the videos you can see the robot being tethered for both control and power but according to the interview with Professor Xinyan Deng the robot should fly untethered in the future.

    7) Publication of the Week - Sweeper: A Sweet-pepper Harvesting Robot, a Webinar (2019).
    INFO: This 56 minutes webinar talks about a sweet pepper harvesting robot destined for indoor pepper farms and using heat pipes as rails. The first part of the webinar focuses on the project scope and result while the second part covers deep learning for pepper detection. The robot developed for this project is equipped with a 6 DOF robot arm mounted on a scissor lift and uses deep learning ready GPUs and the control system is based on ROS. The end effector used for harvesting is equipped with RGB + 3D ToF camera, an LED flashlight, a cutting tool and a catching device. The vision systems challenges a project like this faces are leaf occlusion, varying light conditions, ripe detection. The best results obtained during testing was 81% success rate (compared to ~100% required) and a cycle time of 24s to harvest a single pepper (compared to 10s required). To learn more about the project visit Sweeper website.

    1) One Year of Working as a Robotics Consultant.
    INFO: In this blog post Mat, the author of Weekly Robotics, sums up his first year as a robotics consultant. In the post, among other things, Mat describes his experience with UpWork and lists the projects he has worked on. The posts ends with potentially useful tips on helpful tools to use with ROS.


    1) Sevensense (Zurich, Switzerland) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Sevensense is committed to helping industries achieve new levels of efficiency by pushing the frontiers of mobile robotics. Our team in Zurich develops and delivers both software and hardware, providing a complete solution to the robot navigation problem.

    2) wheel.me (Oslo, Norway) - Computer Vision Engineer.
    INFO: wheel.me is a Norwegian IoT company with global ambitions, located in Oslo. We help people improve the way they live and work by enabling everything indoors to move effortlessly on smart wheels.

    3) FarmWise (San Francisco, CA, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: At FarmWise, we build autonomous robots for agriculture. We work with and for growers to help them move away from chemical-based processes and face the labor crisis that is transforming the face of agriculture.

  • Weekly Robotics #37


    1) ROS Industrial (Melodic) Training Exercises.
    INFO: This ReadTheDocs page from ROS Industrial contains what we would classify as intermediate to advanced exercises for ROS. Each set of exercises is accompanied by slides prepared by Southwest Research Institute.

    2) The Hundred-Tonne Robots That Help Keep New Zealand Running.
    INFO: In this video Tom Scott presents the 70 tonnes autonomous robots for moving ship containers that are being tested in New Zealand. According to the video the robots can stack containers with accuracy of couple of centimeters (which in itself can cause other problems as you can learn from the video). Quite interesting development is the local positioning system used by these robots.

    3) Successful Demonstration of Breakthrough Blown-air Flight Technologies to Revolutionise Future Aircraft Design.
    BAE Systems
    INFO: MAGMA is an UAV designed and developed by researchers at The University of Manchester in collaboration with engineers from BAE Systems. The article presents two falp-free fixed wing aircraft control methods. The demonstrators were: Wing Circulation Control: taking air from the aircraft engine and blowing it supersonically through narrow slots around a specially shaped wing tailing edge in order to control the aircraft and Fluidic Thrust Vectoring: controlling the aircraft by blowing air jets inside the nozzle to deflect the exhaust jet and generate a control force.

    4) Seven Dreamers / Anki closes down.
    The Robot Report/IEEE
    INFO: The past week has been filled with bad news for those waiting for a rise of consumer robots. Seven Dreamers, a company working on the Laundroid laundry-folding robot close down. We were very surprised to learn that Anki (which we mentioned when we showcased vector_ros project one week ago) is also closing down due to failing to secure a new round of financing. The linked IEEE article raises a good point on what happens to customer’s robots if the cloud servers go down. This guest article by Guy Hoffman is an interesting analysis of failed social robot startups.

    5) The Best Robots on Four Legs with Marc Raibert (Boston Dynamics).
    INFO: In this video from TechCrunch Marc Raibert, CEO of Boston Dynamics, discusses the current state of Boston Dynamics and offers some interesting insights on development of robotics products. At 7:30 you can see how components of Spot Mini and the robots themselves are tested.

    6) Hitachi Establishes the Corporate Venture Capital Fund to Support Startups as an Innovation Partner.
    INFO: Hitachi is establishing Hitachi Ventures GmbH that will start on 1st of June and will start with $150M fund.

    7) Publication of the week - NASA Investigative Summary: TaurusXLT8 and T9 Mission Failures (2019)(PDF).
    INFO: Sapa Profiles, Inc. (SPI) provided NASA with faulty materials that ended up being a root cause of 2 launch failures and causing a loss of $700 million. The PDF file linked above is a summary of the investigation carried out by NASA.


    1) Sense Photonics (Edinurgh, UK / Research Triangle, San Francisco US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Sense Photonics produces advanced LiDAR and 3D sensor solutions for the autonomous vehicle, UAV and industrial automation markets.

    2) Enway (Berlin, Germany / Singapore, Singapore) - Various Positions.
    INFO: We are building the technology for high precision autonomous service vehicles. Enabling cleaner and more liveable cities.

  • Weekly Robotics #36

    1) Laying the Ground for Robotic Strategies in Environmental Protection.
    Wyss Institute
    INFO: Researchers at the Wyss Institute have developed Romu, a robot designed to drive interlocking sheet piles into the ground to help stabilize soil. The robot is using linear actuators and a vibratory hammer to press the sheets into the ground.

    2) Snake-inspired Robot Uses Kirigami for Swifter Slithering.
    The Robot Report
    INFO: Kirigami is a papercraft that uses cuts to change the properties of the material. By carefully choosing cuts in a shell the Scientists can ‘program’ the skin to deform in a desired sequence.

    3) NASA’s Robonaut to Return to Space Station With Legs Attached.
    INFO: Robonaut is currently being prepared to go back to ISS, this time with legs attached, that are key to the Robonaut Project research objectives. The above article contains an interview with Julia Badger who is the Robonaut Project Manager, we highly recommend going through it! If you happen to use ROS and Gazebo then you might be able to run the Robonaut 2 simulation by following this wiki.

    4) Paris Firefighters Used This Remote-Controlled Robot to Extinguish the Notre Dame Blaze.
    INFO: In the previous issue of Weekly Robotics we’ve mentioned the robots used during the Notre Dame fire. This articles from IEEE provides more details about the Colossus, a 500 kg (1100 lbs) firefighting robot. We were quite surprised to learn that the robot is capable of moving 1,000 kg (2200 lbs) of payload.

    5) ROS Package for Anki Vector Home Robot.
    INFO: Omri Ben-Bassat has created an unofficial ROS package for Anki Vector, a small wheeled home robot. The package is open source and is a wrapper around Vector SDK. It provides interfaces for the camera, velocity commands, animations, saying text etc.

    6) Velodyne Lidar Partners with Nikon to Mass-produce Cheaper Lidar Sensors.
    INFO: “Sendai Nikon Corporation, a Nikon subsidiary, will manufacture lidar sensors for Velodyne with plans to start mass production in the second half of 2019”. Hopefully the ramp up in production will result in cheaper multi-axis LiDARs on the market.

    7) Publication of the week - Pseudo-LiDAR from Visual Depth Estimation:Bridging the Gap in 3D Object Detection for Autonomous Driving (2019).
    INFO: We found the above paper cited in several articles ([1], [2]) that surfaced after Elon Musk made a statement about LiDARs being a fool’s errand during Tesla autonomy days earlier this week. We’ve decided to see ourselves what the paper says and if stereo cameras will beat LiDARs any time soon. The paper has been written by Cornell University Researchers. In the paper they propose an alternative method for representation of 3D information obtained from stereo cameras so that it resembles LiDAR data (pseudo-LiDAR) and therefore LiDAR based object detection algorithms can be applied to it. The experiment setup is based on the KITTI benchmark and there are two algorithms that Researchers evaluate: F-POINTNET-v1 and AVOD-FPN. Looking at the results table the chosen approach is a significant improvement over other camera based methods however at high Intersection over Union there is still a high gap between stereo based method described and Lidar + monocular camera based method. In case of Bird Eye View representation with AVOD algorithms and the IoU of 0.7 the researchers obtained a result of 74.9 (89.4 for LiDAR + mono camera) in Easy category and 49.0 (79.3 for LiDAR + mono camera) in Hard category.

    1) Humble Book Bundle: Electronics + 3D Printing by Make.
    Humble Bundle
    INFO: This Humble Book bundle features 24 books from Make that are worth $401. In the bundle you will find books related to 3D printing, electronics, programming and even drones. If you purchase the bundle using the above affiliate link you can choose to support Weekly Robotics.


    1) Moley (London, UK) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Moley has created the world’s first robotic kitchen. Featuring an advanced, fully functional robot integrated into a beautifully designed, professional kitchen, it cooks with the skill and flair of a master chef. The prototype was premiered to widespread acclaim at Hanover Messe, the international robotics show.

    2) Sonnet.ai (Seoul / Daegu, South Korea) - Senior Software Engineer, Autonomous Driving.
    INFO: Sonnet.ai is a tech startup bringing artificial intelligence to autonomous vehicles and precision medicine. We founded sonnet.ai because we believe that artificial intelligence technology has the potential to save lives and transform our societies, and we think this is the right team to do it.

    3) Barrios Technology (Houston, TX, US) - Software Developer.
    INFO: Barrios Technology Ltd. is a woman-owned and operated small business headquartered in Houston, Texas. We provide a full spectrum of engineering, operations and related technology services in support of the aerospace community and have successfully supported NASA for 38 years.

  • Weekly Robotics #35

    1) NASA Launching Astrobee Robots to Space Station.
    INFO: Astrobees are the robots that will soon float around the ISS. Each Astrobee is a cube with 30 cm (12 inch) side and is equipped with 6 cameras, touchscreen, speaker, microphone, signal lights, laser pointer and a built-in gripper. Among other things the robots will monitor radiation and air quality onboard the space station. The robots are controlled by pushing air through 12 adjustable nozzles and their software has been developed using ROS and can be found in the following GitHub repository.

    2) The Drones and Robots that Helped Save Notre Dame.
    INFO: We were quite bummed about the Notre Dame burning down but we hope that the robots deployed there brought at least some value by helping out the firefighters. The above article mentions the 2 DJI drones that were used (Mavic Pro and Matrice M210) in helping firefighters to see the intensity and spread of fire in real time and the 500 kg (1100 lbs) Colossus mobile tracked robot developed by Shark Robotics was deployed inside of the burning structure and was providing a constant stream of water to cool down the interior.

    3) Robotic Refueling Mission 3 Update.
    INFO: Back in Weekly Robotics #18 we covered the Robotic Refueling Mission 3 aiming to test new methods for transferring and storing cryogenic fluids like liquid methane in space and robotic tools and vision systems for satellite refueling. As we can read in the above update the coolers seem to have broken down making the module incapable of performing fuel storage and transfer, however the mission will continue operations with servicing and inspection tools.

    4) Automate/ProMat 2019: 10 Takeaways for Robotics Developers.
    The Robot Report
    INFO: In this article by Eugene Demaitre from The Robot Report shares lots of insights on the commercial needs for industrial robots that he learned while attending Automate and ProMat 2019 exhibitions.

    5) A Pet Robot, Just Like Boston Dynamics Makes.
    INFO: This article presents Dizzy Wolf, a quadruped robot developed by Misha. As part of this project Misha designed and manufactured custom motors (some of them with built-in planetary gearbox) and a BLDC motor controller. You can learn more about the project on dizzy.ai.

    6) RDP042: How ROS is Developed with ROS Platform Manager Tully Foote.
    The Construct
    INFO: In this episode of ROS Developers Podcast Ricardo Tellez hosts Tully Foote who is a ROS platform manager at Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF). From the podcast episode we can learn how ROS distributions are created and how timelines follow Ubuntu release lifecycle. There are also some interesting thoughts on Gazebo simulators, how Python 3 is going to be used in the future and the last release of ROS.

    7) Publication of the week - ROS-based implementation of BatSLAM (2016).
    INFO: In this paper Researchers from the University of Antwerp describe their efforts of integrating BatSLAM into a ROS based system developed on top of Pioneer P3-DX mobile robot. The system is using biomimetic sonar sensor that perform echolocation and a Hokuyo laser rangefinder that is used for capturing the ground truth information. To create a BatSLAM solution the Researchers process the information from the sonar sensor to create 8-bit images that they later use with RatSLAM. The end goal for the researchers is to use this solution to create an autonomous wheelchair.


    1) Blue Robotics (Torrance, CA, US or remote) - Software Developer.
    INFO: Blue Robotics specializes in developing, manufacturing, and online retailing of components and systems for marine robotics. We strive to make products that are high-quality, well-supported, and low-cost with the goal of enabling and expanding the field of marine robotics.

    2) Veo Robotics ( Waltham, MA) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Veo Robotics is transforming manufacturing with products that incorporate advanced computer vision, 3D sensing, and AI. Our first product lets high-performance industrial robots work collaboratively with people to enable much more flexible, productive, and efficient manufacturing workcells.

    3) Flyability (Lausanne, Switzerland) - Software Engineer.
    INFO: At Flyability, we believe that robots should be sent in hazardous places and dangerous situations instead of putting humans in danger. To support our belief we created Elios, the world’s first collision-tolerant flying robot that for the first time allows entry to complex and indoor spaces.

    4) Zen Robotics (Helsinki, Finland) - Robotics Software Developer.
    INFO: ZenRobotics Ltd is a global leader in intelligent robotic recycling. We provide a solution to the world’s waste crisis with AI-based sorting robots that make recycling more efficient, accurate and profitable.