Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [11/27]

  • Weekly Robotics #62

    Issue 62

    1) ROSCon 2019.
    INFO: ROSCon is happening next week from October 31st to November 1st. The talks lineup is quite exciting and I’ll definitely be following it. Usually there is a livestream of the talks, check out the conference page for updates.

    2) LaMa - A Localization and Mapping Library.
    INFO: Feels like this newsletter will need a “SLAM Solution of the week section” if I keep learning about SLAM libraries at the current rate! Regarding this library there was an interesting discussion about it on ROS Discourse where the author of the library presented it to the community. The thing that caught my attention the most is how little resources this library uses. The GitHub repository description mentions that Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ is the minimum viable computer to run it.

    3) Humanoid Robot Has Joints That Inspire.
    INFO: This article presents the LIMS2-AMBIDEX humanoid robot upper body developed by Researchers from IRIM Lab at Korea University of Technology and Education. The robot is driven using brushless motors and pulleys and I indeed found the wrist mechanism inspiring! In the comment a Hackaday user anil inverse provided a link to a GitHub repository that contains an stl model of the wrist mechanism that you can 3D print.

    4) Anki Patent Portfolio Is Now for Sale.
    The Robot Report
    INFO: Anki was a consumer robot manufacturer that close down earlier this year (as featured in Weekly Robotics #37). As reported in the article the patent portfolio of the company is now for sale. I’m still bummed about Anki closing down I had high hopes for it and wanted to experiment with it using vector_ros at one point.

    5) Robot Teaches Kids Hand Washing Skills in Rural India.
    IEEE Spectrum
    INFO: Usually the robots I feature in this newsletter are a bit more sophisticated than the current version of Pepe shown in the article, however I believe it can have quite a positive impact. The experiment with this robot took only 3 days but throughout this time the hand washing rate of students increased by 40%.

    6) Robert Williams (Robot Fatality).
    INFO: Let’s take a dark turn. This Wikipedia page describes the death of Robert Willimas, who died in 1979 in one of the Ford plants and is the first known human to be killed by a robot. According to Wikipedia the second person to be killed by a robot was Kenji Urada who at the time worked at Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

    7) Publication of the Week - Mantis: A Scalable, Lightweight and Accessible Architecture to Build Multiform Force Feedback Systems (2019).
    INFO: This paper by Researchers from the University of Bristol presents Mantis, a system architecture for creating force feedback systems. I’ve learned multiple things from this paper - especially on motor selection, impedance vs admittance control and transmission systems. You can find a video of Mantis systems on YouTube.

    1) Webots Now Available from the Snap Store.
    INFO: Webots R2019b revision was just released on the snap store so that you can install it safely and easily on your favorite Linux distribution. That is probably the easiest way to install Webots since all the dependencies are included, including the C/C++/Java compilers, python 3, etc. Also snap packages are safe as they run in a protected sand-box on your Linux computer and hence cannot harm it, can be uninstalled easily and can handle different versions of the software.


    1) NVIDIA (Santa Clara, CA, US) - Senior Software Engineer - Robotics.
    INFO: The team around Project Isaac is building a robotics platform for developing the next generation of intelligent robots. Isaac is binding together high-fidelity visual and physical simulation, a high-quality developing platform, hundreds of optimized algorithms to tackle hard problems in computer vision and artificial intelligence, and a small and powerful computational platform to form the brain of intelligent machines.

    2) Space Application Serivces (Brussels, Belgium) - Robotics Software Engineer - Sensor Fusion & Simulation.
    INFO: Space Applications Services is a company based in the Brussels area (BE) that provides products and services for the space sector in many areas from Avionics, Robotics, Human Exploration, Science and Earth Observation.

    3) GIM Robotics (Espoo, Finland) - Robotics Engineer.
    INFO: GIM provides full-stack automation and intelligent sensor systems for logistics, mobility and maintenance. Focus on sensor fusion software for autonomous navigation in large outdoor areas.

  • Weekly Robotics #61

    Issue 61

    All the stickers I dedicated for the giveaway last week were claimed within 48 hours. There are now on their way to the 20 of you that expressed interest in them. I hope that in the future I will be able to repeat the giveaway! In other news this week I attended Robotics and ROS meetup in Zurich where I presented Weekly Robotics and had a chance to attend presentation of ANYbotics ANYmal C. I’ve learned a ton and the demo was amazing. ANYbotics has many open source repositories that I recommend you to check out, especially if you are working with ROS.

    1) Coanda Effect Hovercraft.
    INFO: Yet another interesting project log from Tom Stanton. This time he is building a hovercraft using Coandă Effect to create a cushion of air for the hovercraft to lift off the ground. You can find other Tom’s projects in issue #26 and issue #43.

    2) Assembler Robots Make Large Structures From Little Pieces.
    INFO: Benjamin Jenett, a PhD student at MIT had developed robots capable of assembling structures, while also in a way being a part of them. In the article this concept is called “relative robotics” and I can’t wait to see more projects like these.

    3) Kimera Library.
    INFO: Via the linked page: “Kimera is a C++ library for real-time metric-semantic simultaneous localization and mapping, which uses camera images and inertial data to build a semantically annotated 3D mesh of the environment. Kimera is modular, ROS-enabled, and runs on a CPU”. The ROS wrapper of this package contains launch files for a Realsense D435i camera. I’m really tempted to try it out.

    4) Stanford Engineers Develop New Tool for Designing Prosthetic Limbs.
    INFO: This video presents work done by Stanford Researchers with prosthesis emulators - a testbed for rapid prosthesis design and testing.

    5) PCB Thermal Management Techniques.
    All About Circuits
    INFO: This article from All About Circuits describes good design practices for Printed Circuit Board design and inspection when it comes to heat dissipation. Big thanks to Illia for the tip!

    6) LIPO Batteries Fail Explosion Compilation How Not to Burn Down your Home.
    INFO: I might have fallen into a YouTube rabbit hole of RC models crashing and what not and thought it would be a good idea to to talk safety again. I think being reminded every now and then that the LiPO batteries can catch fire if not handled properly is a good thing. Stay safe!

    7) Publication of the Week - Solving Rubik’s Cube With a Robot Hand (2019).
    INFO: This paper presents the work of OpenAI Researchers on creating a whole system capable of solving a Rubik’s cube with a humanoid robot hand that made the news this week. The setup for this project looks quite interesting, starting with Shadow Robot Dexterous Hand, a motion capture system to track the hand’s fingertips, RGB cameras for vision pose estimation and bluetooth enabled Rubik’s Cube. To train the model the Researchers used ADR (Automatic Domain Randomization) in simulation. My favourite part of the paper is when the AI gets annoyed: “We also observe that the policy appears more likely to drop the cube after being stuck on a challenging face rotation for a while”. You can find the video of the hand solving the cube on YouTube.

    1) Intel Realsense T265 Tracking Camera for Mobile Robotics - First Impressions.
    INFO: I’ve spent a fair bit of time working with T265 on Robosynthesis development platform. The above blog post summarizes my experience with this camera and provides some tips on how to set it up.


    1) ANYbotics (Zurich, Switzerland) - Various Positions.
    INFO: We provide solutions for robot applications with the most advanced mobility and autonomy requirements in challenging terrain.

    2) Magazino (Munich, Germany) - Performance & Quality Roboticist.
    INFO: Magazino develops and builds intelligent, mobile robots for intralogistics.

  • Weekly Robotics #60

    Issue 60

    How do you like the stickers shown in the header image of this issue? Let’s do a giveaway! The first 20 readers that will send me an e-mail with their postal will get a sticker sent to them free of charge. As soon as your address makes it to the envelope it will be deleted to be never seen again.

    1) Imagineering in a Box.
    Khan Academy
    INFO: Disney has released a free course on Theme Park design that I found very inspiring and interesting to watch. In Lesson 3 starting with video on Armatures you can have a look into Animatronics at Disney’s theme parks. In exercise sections you can even design your own linkage system and actuate it.

    2) Drones as Detectives: Surveying Crime Scenes for Evidence.
    IEEE Spectrum
    INFO: I’ve heard of a similar idea years ago in the context of using drones and photogrammetry for accident mapping (this article from PhotoModeler Technologies will give you an idea what I’m talking about). I’m not sure how useful drones would be on the crime scenes though given that a person can easily take photographs from multiple angles with a handheld camera.

    3) Xaxxon OpenLIDAR Sensor.
    INFO: This project is an open source lidar built using Garmin’s Lidar-Lite v3 distance sensor. The maximum range of the assembled LiDAR is 40 meters and it can rotate at 250 RPM (equal to 4.17 Hz full scan rate).

    4) Walmart’s Robot Army Has Arrived.
    Fast Company
    INFO: How to integrate robots into places full of people while signaling robot’s intent? That is one of the problems Bossa Nova has to tackle. I found this article to be a good inspiration to think about user interaction in Robotics.

    5) TRI Teaching Robots to Help People in their Homes.
    Toyota Research Institute
    INFO: I really like the design of this robot - a body of a humanoid robot torso attached to a robot manipulator that is rigidly connected to a mobile robot platform. I recommend watching this YouTube video about this R&D Project. Given that TRI is in the ROS2 Technical Steering Committee what are the chances of this platform running ROS2?

    6) Watch Astrobee’s First Autonomous Flight on the International Space Station.
    IEEE Spectrum
    INFO: One of my all time favourite ROS projects (I covered Astrobee launch in #35, a paper on Astrobee Software in #39 and the first flight in #44) made its first fully autonomous flight!

    7) Publication of the Week - Design, Modeling and Control of a Robot Bat: From Bio-inspiration to Engineering Solutions (2019).
    Carnegie Mellon University
    INFO: This is a very interesting seminar on bio-inspired robot design by Seth Hutchinson. I’ve never realised how many Degrees of Freedom bats have! If you have a one hour of time to invest and you are interested in biologically inspired robots then I recommend watching this lecture. I’ve definitely learned something today.

  • Weekly Robotics #59

    Issue 59

    Have you seen this video of Waymo employees testing the self driving car on their commutes? According to the description in the video the feature tested at the time was similar to highway assist features (assuming not very close to full autonomy). I feel I agree with the point made in the description that “nothing short of full autonomy will do”; I’m starting to agree - most of us will most probably be too distracted if they are not fully engaged.

    0) Weekly Robotics Q3 Reports.
    Weekly Robotics
    INFO: Do you like numbers? I made a Q3 report summarizing the newsletter performance in the last quarter. Hope you like it!

    1) Unleash Your Smart-home Devices: Vacuum Cleaning Robot Hacking.
    INFO: Apparently smart vacuum cleaners made by Xiaomi run Ubuntu 14.04. I was hoping that the robot would run ROS however nothing I’ve seen in the video and project repository seems to indicate that they are using ROS. Using information from this GitHub repository and applying the things shown in the above video you can install a xiaomi_bridge and “rosify” your vacuum cleaner.

    2) Fictiv Teardowns.
    INFO: Big thanks to Illia for sending me these links! Apparently Fictiv does some teardowns of robots; in the above video you can see how a $300 iRobot Braava Robot Mop is built. On YouTube you can also find teardowns of Anki Vector, Neato Robot Vacuum and Roomba 650.

    3) mjbots quad A0.
    INFO: mjbots quad A0 is an open source quadruped robot, very similar to MIT mini cheetah] that you could read about in the issue #28. In the Hackaday project page you will find a video summarizing 1 year of author’s work on this robot that’s worth watching. The project is licensed under Apache 2.0.

    4) Robotics Investments Recap: September 2019.
    The Robot Report
    INFO: This article from The Robot Reports shows robotics investments, mergers and acquisitions that happened in September.

    5) Controlling Robots Across Oceans and Space – No Magic Required.
    INFO: A signal from ISS to earth needs to make a round trip of 144 400 km. Assuming that the signal travels at a speed of light then we are dealing with 0.5 second delay. If you want to add haptic feedback to teleoperation I imagine it can be quite a tough issue to tackle, especially from user interface perspective. This article from ESA explores the history of robot control from space and introduces Meteron project experiment that will take in November this year. As part of this trial ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano will operate a rover in Netherlands while onboard ISS. We will let you know when we learn any more information about the experiment.

    6) ROS 2 Navigation: Now We Are Getting Somewhere.
    Rover Robotics
    INFO: This article from Rover Robotics compares 5 different ROS 2 middlewares for launching a navigation stack. We are getting there!

    7) Publication of the Week - Report On Needs of the ROS 2 Community (2019)(PDF).
    PickNik Consulting
    INFO: Speaking of ROS 2 this 14 pages document from PickNik Consulting is a survey report on 15 robotics companies regarding their use and perception of ROS 1 and ROS 2. There are some interesting ideas on the required steps to make ROS 2 more appealing to companies and early adopters.

    1) Humble Book Bundle: Linux & UNIX by O’Reilly.
    Humble Bundle
    INFO: If you are working in Unix environment you might find this bundle of interest. I’m especially interested about the book on vi and vim and linux device drivers. By purchasing this bundle you can choose to support Code for America and Weekly Robotics.


    1) Pro-Drone (Lisbon/Alentejo, Portugal) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Pro-Drone is a tech start-up that is revolutionizing how assets are inspected worldwide by developing autonomous UAV inspection solutions.

    2) Neuralink (San Francisco, CA, US) - Software Engineer, Roboticist.
    INFO: Neuralink is developing ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers. We are building a team of multidisciplinary experts passionate about making a world-changing impact.