Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [12/15]

  • Weekly Robotics #14

    1) Fast line-following robots part 1: control.
    INFO: In this blog post Andy Sloane goes over evolution of his line following robot for DIYRobocars meetup in SF. The article covers the evolution of a line follow algorithm that starts as a purely proportional controller and finally takes a form of a PD controller keeping a target velocity on a curve with a lookahead control. We recommend playing with the included algorithm visualizations and controller tuning.

    2) Unexpected AI.
    INFO: This Google sheet is a compiled list of cases where an AI system uses the imposed rules in ways unexpected by the authors. Some of the entries are robotics related: “a robot arm with a purposely disabled gripper found a way to hit the box in a way that would force the gripper open”.

    3) Cybathlon 2020.
    INFO: Via linked website: The Cybathlon is a unique championship in which people with physical disabilities compete against each other to complete everyday tasks using state-of-the-art technical assistance systems. The teams have time until November 2019 to register, provide safety documentation and complete a pilot form. This video shows a trailer for 2016 edition.

    4) ROSCon and IROS 2019.
    INFO: ROSCon 2019 has been announced and will take place from October 31st to November 1st in Macau. IROS will take place in Macau as well from November 3rd to November 8th.

    5) How multi-beam flash lidar works.
    INFO: The linked document is a technical note on Ouster lidar. Interestingly Ouster lidar is working with light on 850 nm wavelength (for comparison Velodyne HDL-64E is using 905nm light). The article also mentions Outster’s approach for Flash lidar and technological improvements that matter to their technology.

    6) RocketLab’s satellite launch.
    INFO: RocketLab’s Electron rocket just carried out a successful mission, carrying small commercial satellites to the orbit. Compared to most of commercial rockets we usually hear about the Electron is quite small. It’s height is only 17 m (56 feet) and it can carry about 220 kg (550 pounds) of payload.

    7) Publication of the week - UMBmark - A Method for Measuring, Comparing, and Correcting Dead-reckoning Errors in Mobile Robots(1994).
    INFO: UMBMark (University of Michigan Benchmark) is a method for measuring dead-reckoning errors in mobile robots. To successfully perform UMBMark you will need to run the robot on a 4x4m path, while collecting robot position information. On page 15 of the linked document you will find a one-page summary of the procedure. If you are looking for a read that’s shorter than 40 pages, a solder spot article is quite succinct and contains a C source code with UMB results implementation.

    0) Introducing the sponsored section.
    INFO: It has been 100 days since the launch of Weekly Robotics. Since compiling each issue takes anywhere between 3 to 6 hours we think that the sponsored section should help cover the personal costs and keep this newsletter going. Please get in touch if you would like to advertise your robotics related products or services with us.

    1) Handling dead nodes in ROS
    INFO: In this article the author of this newsletter explores methods of determining a state of a ROS node (especially capturing whether it’s still alive).


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    1) Robotics & Perception Group at ETH (Zurich, Switzerland) - PhD/Postdoc in Deep/Reinforcement Learning for Computer Vision.
    INFO: Robot Perception Group’s mission is to develop autonomous machines that can navigate all by themselves using only onboard cameras, without relying on external infrastructure, such as GPS or motion capture systems.

    2) Ouster (San Francisco, CA, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Ouster is developing lidar sensors (see the 5th entry of this Weekly Robotics issue).

  • Weekly Robotics #13

    1) ESIM - An Open Event Camera Simulator.
    INFO: Compared to traditional cameras the event cameras measure the change in pixel intensity, in the form of asynchronous events. This 30s YouTube video is a good comparison between the event and traditional cameras. ESIM is an open source event camera simulator allowing simulation of arbitrary camera motion in 3D scenes. The data provided by the sim are: events, standard images, inertial measurements, ground truth information (pose, velocity, depth and optical flow maps).

    2) OpenDog quadruped robot video series.
    INFO: This playlist by James Bruton contains is a build log of his open source dog robot. It’s a great mixture of design, hardware and control systems work. Up to date there are 13 videos in the series.

    3) European Robotics Week 2018.
    INFO: European Robotics Week 2018 will take place from 16 to 25th of November all around Europe. There are over 1000 events planned for those days in the page above you will find an interactive map together with a full list of events.

    4) Inspexel - an open source library for Dynamixel motors.
    INFO: The library support both V1 and V2 Dynamixel protocol, provides automatic motor discovery, supports all baud rates and according to the description in the repository it support all Dynamixel motors that are currently produced.

    5) Understanding quaternions.
    INFO: Need a refresher on quaternions? Start here. Or if you’d like more visual explanation then you can find it in this youtube video.

    6) Pointcloudprinter.
    INFO: If you are creatig point clouds from your UAV or other robotic system you might be interested in the above software that transforms point cloud data into solid meshes for 3D printing.

    7) Publication of the week - SFV: Reinforcement Learning of Physical Skills from Videos (2018).
    INFO: The work contained in this publication (don’t forget to checkout the videos and a blog post) allows simulated characters to learn dynamic movements from videos (hence the name SFV - Skills From Videos). The presented framework takes a video as an input, performs pose estimation, motion reconstruction and finally performs motion imitation in the simulation.


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    1) Voyage (Pao Alto, CA, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Voyage builds autonomous vehicles.

    2) Boston Dynamics (Waltham, MA, US) - Various positions.
    INFO: Boston Dynamics is developping advanced dynamic robots, including Spot, Atlas, Handle, and others.

    3) National Oceanography Centre (Southampton, UK) - Robotic Systems Electronics Engineer.
    INFO: The National Oceanography Centre (NOC) is an UK national research organisation, delivering integrated marine science and technology from the coast to the deep ocean.

    4) CVC (Barcelona, Spain) - Senior Software Engineer for CARLA.
    INFO: Computer Vision Center is looking for Senior Software Engineers to work on CARLA - an open source simulator for autonomous driving research (we featured CARLA in Weekly Robotics #8).

    5) Maidbot (Austin, TX, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Maidbot serves the commercial cleaning industry by leaving dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks to autonomous solutions, allowing humans to focus on more meaningful and enjoyable work.

  • Weekly Robotics #12

    1) Sawppy Rover.
    INFO: Remember the NASA Open Source Rover? The author of Sawppy took inspiration from this project and greately simplified it, reducing the estimated build price from 2000$ to 500$.

    2) Wingtra completes BVLOS flight in Tanzania.
    INFO: As a part of Lake Victoria Challenge Wingtra, a vertical takeoff and landing fixed wing UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), performed 22 km BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight) flight across the lake.

    3) SLAM for Dummies.
    INFO: SLAM for dummies is a 40 page (plus additional 80 pages of appendices) tutorial on SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping). The tutorial covers 2D SLAM for mobile robot applications using a LiDAR scanner, EKF (Extended Kalman Filter) and robot wheel odometry.

    4) ArduCopter 3.6.0 has been released.
    INFO: A new major version of ArduCopter, an open source flight control software, has been released after months of beta testing. The release supports new kinds of boards targeting ChibiOS, new flight modes (including optical flow hold mode) and improvements for non-GPS navigation (for example for using motion capture system).

    5) TU Berlin tutorial on soft actuators.
    INFO: The actuators are made of rubber and sewing string. You will need a vacuum chamber and a way to 3D print molds.

    6) Cycloidal reduction drive generator for Autodesk Fusion360.
    INFO: This repository contains a script to generate a 3D model of cycloidal drive. In the media directory you will find the photos, gifs and videos of the drive in action.

    7) Paper of the week - A Robust Layered Control System for a Mobile Robot (1985).
    INFO: This 1985 paper shows a methodology for a layered control system where any higher level layer can subsum the roles of lower level layers when they want to take control. In the proposed architecture the layer 0 is meant to avoid contact with objects, layer 1 wanders aimlessly without hitting things, layer 2 is exploration/navigation and so on.


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    1) Robosynthesis (Twyford, UK) - Robotics Mechatronics / Software Engineers.
    INFO: Robosynthesis offers a flexible, robust and cost effective modular robotic delivery platform.

    2) Skydio (Redwood City, CA, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Skydio develops a fully autonomous R1 cinematic quadrotor.

    3) Brain Corporation (San Diego, CA, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Brain Corp is an AI company that specializes in the development of self-driving technology.

  • Weekly Robotics #11

    0) DJI plane wing collision video called out as misleading.
    INFO: Back in issue 8 we included a video of a DJI Phantom 2 hitting an aircraft wing. The linked article contains an open letter from DJI who accuse researchers of, among other things, making unrealistic assumptions and including very little description of testing methodology.

    1) What Comes After the Roomba?
    INFO: This piece by the New York Times discusses the future of home robotics. 16 years after iRobot Roomba was introduced to the market it seems that we didn’t move to anything past a vacuum cleaner when it comes to home robotics (at least when high adoption is concerned).

    2) Robomaster Robotics Competition 2019.
    INFO: The registration for Robomaster Robotics Competition is open with a registration deadline 31/10/2018 for Chinese teams and 16/11/2018 for teams from other regions. In this edition the teams will build various kinds of robots (mobile robots, drones and sentry bots) capable of shooting projectiles. The total prize pool is said to be 600,000$.

    3) Nyble - Open Source Quadruped Cat Robot.
    INFO: The cat is based on an laser cut frame and according to the description in the link it’s powered by an Atmega328P. In total there are 11 servos on the frame (4 for each leg, and 3 for head assembly). When it comes to sensing the main board contains a 6-axis IMU and there is an ultrasonic distance sensor embedded in the head assembly.

    4) Ubiquity Robotics ROS Raspberry Pi Images.
    INFO: Ubiquity Robotics shares a set of SD card images for Raspberry Pi 3 that are pre-loaded with ROS, saving you time needed for setting up a system from scratch.

    5) Single Board Computer Database.
    INFO: This searchable database contains information on 270 single board computers. There are multiple filters you can apply to search criteria such as CPU speed, RAM, physical dimensions, network interfaces, price, hardware interfaces etc.

    6) NASA’s Hubble Telescope Recovers after gyro failure.
    INFO: Earlier this month NASA’s Hubble telescope experienced a gyro failure that resulted in gyro indicating rotation rates higher than expected by orders of magnitude. The gyros on Hubble rotate at constant speed of 19,200 RPM. The gyro wheel is suspended in a sealed cylinder filled with thick fluid and the electronics within the gyro detect small changes of the axis of the wheel. Our recommendation is to read the reports starting with the oldest one at the bottom of the page.

    7) Paper of the week - Probabilistic Kinematic State Estimation for Motion Planning of Planetary Rovers (2018).
    INFO: This paper introduces p-ACE, a probabilistic variant of ACE (Approximate Clearance Evaluation) algorithm used for kinematic collision detection used for path-planners for planetary rovers. ACE allows estimating the worst case configuration associated with wheel heights that could make the rover stuck, while p-ACE is calculating probability distribution in real time and, according to authors, assuming less pessimistic worst-case configurations that are still safe for the rover.


    0) Would you like to advertise an open position in a robotics related company?
    INFO: If you would like us to include your open position in the hiring section please feel free to send us an e-mail.