Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [12/20]

  • Weekly Robotics #34

    0) Weekly Robotics #32 Survey Results.
    INFO: In Weekly Robotics #32 we created a survey that was completed by 66 readers. Thank you! The post above contains the results of the survey with some commentary, plans for the future and current state of the newsletter.

    1) BREEZE- Bioinspired Ray for Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration.
    INFO: BREEZE is a research project by Javid Bayandor from State University of New York that received funding as part of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. The project will explore developing a flying ray built from inflatable structures with bio-inspired kinematics.

    2) Orbital Drive (2017).
    INFO: This YouTube video by Skyentific presents an Orbital Drive a speed reducer for brushless motor with ratio of 35:1. There is a follow up video from the author from two weeks ago in which he tests the Orbital Drive with ODrive, an open source motor controller.

    3) The Age of Robot Farmers.
    The New Yorker
    INFO: In this article from The New Yorker John Seabrook describes the current state of the strawberry farm labour market in the US and how robotized strawberry pickers can come to the rescue. We like how this article presents the business case for robots for strawberry picking without overselling it. Another thing we liked is the mentioned ‘demo effect’ during the picker presentation and how cautious one has to be if the Lidar is off.

    4) Hello (Real) World with ROS – Robot Operating System.
    TU Delft
    INFO: If you are looking to learn ROS you might consider taking a look at this free edX course that covers ROS setup, communication, autonomous navigation, motion planning and object detection.

    5) Robots Help Archaeologists to Explore Pre-Incan Ruins in Peru (2018).
    Stanford Engineering
    INFO: This article (and a featured video) presents how Archaeologists from Stanford Archaeology Center are using robots for ruins exploration. In the video we can see a Vinebot (you can see how to make one in this tutorial) and a small mobile rover being used in the field.

    6) SpaceX Falcon Heavy Sticks Triple Rocket Landing with 1st Commercial Launch.
    INFO: SpaceX Falcon Heavy had it first operational mission debut on April 11th. The rocket deployed an Arabsat-6A satellite and finished the mission by having the two side boosters land on the ground and the center booster land on the drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

    7) Publication of the week - Quasi-Direct Drive for Low-Cost Compliant Robotic Manipulation (2019).
    INFO: This paper introduces Blue - a force-controlled low-cost 7 DoF robotic arm capable of handling payloads of up to 2 kg (4.4 lb) designed by engineers from Berkeley. The robot is meant to work well in unstructured environments while costing under $5,000 when produced in large volumes. The robot’s control system is running on Intel NUC and heavily utilizing ros_control package. The project website contains further information about the project, including videos showing the robot performing various tasks and tests performed on the robot.

    1) RobotShop, Putting Robotics at Your Service™
    INFO: RobotShop is the world’s leading source of robotics technology. It provides personal, domestic, and professional robots, development platforms, kits, and specialized robotic parts. RobotShop is also an important source for robotics education, innovation and research. Use code Weekly5% for 5% discount off your first order until May 31st.


    1) Dorabot (Various Locations) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Our engineers are developing innovative industrial solutions that work flexibly in semi-structured environments, supported by business professionals with decades of experience leading innovative enterprises. We found this video from Dorabot to be really worth a watch!

    2) RE 2 Robotics (Pittsburgh, PA, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: RE2 Robotics is dedicated to creating a next generation of mobile robotics technologies that help users better interact with their environments. We mentioned RE2 performing robotic disaster cleanup in Weekly Robotics #33.

    3) Mobile Industrial Robots (Odense, Denmark) - Functional Safety Software Developer.
    INFO: Mobile Industrial Robots is a leading manufacturer of collaborative mobile robots. We are dedicated to developing user-friendly, flexible and safe robots to help companies increase the efficiency of their operations.


    1) Self-driving Moving Hackathon For Engineers and Hackers.
    INFO: Moving Hackathon is a global meetup and hackathon event for self-driving startups, engineers, developers and enthusiasts worldwide. Aiming to lower the entry barrier of self-driving, Moving Hackathon provides car platforms equipped with computing abilities, drive-by-wire control and other hardware support onsite, also closed urban roads to test and challenge for global self-driving engineers. Moving Hackathon is meant to spark the spirit of engineering and facilitate the mutual growth. Apply before Apr.18th and get flight reimbursement, free accommodation and meals.

    2) 2019 Hackaday Prize.
    INFO: Via website: This is the 2019 Hackaday Prize, the worldwide hardware design contest focused on product development. We know you can build a working prototype, and we still want to see you do that. But a great idea should have reach beyond your own workshop. This year’s Hackaday Prize is about taking your product across the finish line, from concept to design for manufacture.

    3) Apply to the 2nd RobotUnion Open Call and Get Up to €223K Equity Free Funding and Full Acceleration Package.
    INFO: RobotUnion, the pan-European acceleration programme related to the robotics industry, has launched its second call with €4 million equity free funding for startups and SMEs. Through this call, RobotUnion lead by Fundingbox will continue the acceleration journey with other 20 startups that will develop projects in the field of robotics linked to agri-food, healthcare, civil engineering and manufacturing. Each selected company could receive up to €223,000 public funding as well as access to technological support from European robotics experts and business acceleration services. The best-performing companies participating in the programme will have a chance to obtain an additional €1 million of private investment in funding rounds led by the top VCs and investment advisors from the Robotic Industry.

  • Weekly Robotics #33

    1) Project MORPH.
    INFO: This build log by Roald Lemmens provides insights into development of MORPH (Modular Open Robotics Platform for Hackers) - a mobile robot driven by two hoverboard motors. The robot frame was built using aluminium profiles and the motors are driven by VESC motor controllers and use AS5047 magnetic encoders for reading wheel position. The robot control code is executed on Intel UP Board and is utilizing ROS. The source code is available on GitHub.

    2) micro-ROS.
    INFO: micro-ROS is a project aiming to support ROS2 implementation on microcontrollers. The project targets boards capable of supporting Nuttx Real-Time Operating System. micro-ROS is being developed as a part of the Ofera project.

    3) 3D Printing and Milling Athena Optic Bench.
    INFO: ESA together with Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology started an exploratory activity on the optic bench. The system uses two industrial robots - one is melting the titanium powder to create 3D structures, while the second one is milling away any imperfections, all while the bench is slowly turning. The role of the optic bench is to align and secure 750 mirror modules used to capture and focus high energy X-rays. The required precision of the overall shape is in few tens of micrometers. The article features this video showing the 3D printing in titanium.

    4) NASA’s Mars Helicopter Completes Flight Tests.
    INFO: Earlier this year NASA completed a flight test of it’s helicopter destined for Mars. The helicopter weights 1.8 kg (4 pounds) and was designed to function in temperatures as low as -90°C (-130°F). The flight test were performed in a vacuum chamber prepared to imitate Mars atmosphere. During the trials the vehicle was tested at 5 cm (2 in) hover. The video of the test can be found on Vimeo.

    5) The Evolution of an Arduino Project.
    INFO: This YouTube video shows almost 4 years progress on a DIY ping-pong ball juggling robot. The author considered several approaches for bounce position estimation such as microphones, phototransistors and vision systems.

    6) RE2 Robotics Performs Robotic Disaster Clean-up at Tyndall Air Force Base in the Aftermath of Hurricane Michael.
    INFO: RE2 Robotics helped clean up an Airforce Base using RADR robotic retrofit kit technology implemented on Genie GTH-1256 telehandler. The setup allowed workers to teloperate the GTH-1256 to perform sweeping and debris removal, while maintaining a safe distance.

    7) Publication of the week - Keep Rollin’ - Whole-Body Motion Control and Planning for Wheeled Quadrupedal Robots (2019).
    INFO: ETH University Researchers equipped an ANYmal quadruped robot with wheels. This paper shows dynamic locomotion for wheeled quadrupedal robots which combine the mobility of legs with the efficiency of driving. You can see the results of the paper in this YouTube video.


    1) Kaarta (Pittsburgh, PA ,US) - Robotics SLAM Engineer.
    INFO: Kaarta is developing award-winning algorithms and systems for real-time generation of 3D models of the environment and localization relative to those models with no infrastructure (such as GPS).

    2) Open Robotics (Mountain View, CA, US / Singapore, Singapore) - Various Positions.
    INFO: At Open Robotics, we work with industry, academia, and government to create and support open software and hardware for use in robotics, from research and education to product development. We develop and maintain the core of the Robot Operating System (ROS), and Gazebo, a 3D multi-robot simulator.

    3) DFKI Robotics Innovation Center (Bremen, Germany) - Early Stage Researcher.
    INFO: The Robotics Innovation Center (RIC) belongs to the Bremen location of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI GmbH). Headed by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Frank Kirchner, here scientists develop robot systems to be used for complex tasks on land, under water, in the air, and in space. The RIC closely cooperates with the Robotics Group at the University of Bremen.


    1) Open Call for Robot Operating System (ROS) The Complete Reference (Volume 5) chapters.
    INFO: The call for the Springer book on ROS is open until 15th of May. The book will be published by January 2020 and will mostly focus on ROS2.

    2) Odense Investor Summit 2019 - Bridging the Gap Between Startups/SMEs & Investors Within Robotics, Drones & Health-tech.
    INFO: Odense Investor Summit is an annual, Danish-based event hosted by Odense Seed and Ventures. We gather startups/SMEs and Investors within robotics, drones & health-tech in the heart of Europe’s most dynamic robotics cluster, Odense Robotics. Carefully selected 20 companies will be pitching in front of an exclusive crowd of 120 investors. The event will also contain facilitated matchmaking, which will focus on investors and capital-seeking companies. If you would like to be one of the lucky participants, apply today via investorsummit.dk! See you in Odense, Denmark!

    3) RobMoSys Demo and Info Day in Barcelona on April 11 & 12.
    INFO: RobMoSys is an EU based project aiming to develop a European ecosystem for open and sustainable industry-grade software development in Robotics. To reach this goal, the RobMoSys project offers coaching and funding to external partners over the runtime of 6 to 12 months. Visit the RobMoSys Demo Day on April 11th to see demonstrations of concrete examples of RobMoSys developments [more]. The Information Day on April 12th will outline the funding opportunities within the RobMoSys project for industry research organisations, universities, SMEs and individual experts [more].

  • Weekly Robotics #32

    0) Weekly Robotics Survey.
    INFO: If you have 5 minutes to spare we would greatly appreciate your input in the above survey. Your input is valuable to us and will help us create a better experience for you. Thanks for being with us!

    1) rosshow.
    INFO: rosshow is a tool for visualizing ROS (Robot Operating System) topics in a terminal. Among other things it supports point clouds, images, laser scans, imu and nav sat messages.

    2) NASA-funded Inflatable Robots are Safe in Space, and in Homes.
    INFO: Brigham Young University engineers are working on programmable inflatable robots. The advantages of inflatable robots mentioned in the video are: robots taking less space (and weight) while not in use, safety, ability to absorb impacts.

    3) Airbus Begins Shore-to-ship Port Drone Deliveries.
    AIN online
    INFO: Airbus has launched shore to ship trials in Singapore. During trials Skyways, a delivery drone capable of lifting up to 4 kg (8.8 pounds) delivering cargo to vessels as far as 1.6 nautical miles (3 km) from the coast, was used. During trials the drone delivered 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) of 3D printed parts to a ship 0.8 nautical miles away from the shore.

    4) Optimal Actuator Design.
    INFO: In this post biomimetics lab (the lab that created MIT Cheetah robot presented in Weekly Robotics #28) presents their requirements for an optimal actuator. The team ended up designing their own actuator based on Emoteq HT-5001 motor and an 5.8:1 planetary gear.

    5) GITAI Partners With JAXA to Send Telepresence Robots to Space.
    INFO: GITAI and JAXA are looking into creating telepresence robots for space activities. The robots would be working on space stations on low earth orbit, while being teleoperated from Earth. In the article you can find a video with the GITAI robot being teleoperated through a VR system.

    6) Handle Robot Reimagined for Logistics.
    INFO: In this YouTube video Boston Dynamics showcases it’s mobile robot designed for logistics applications. The robot is designed to handle boxes as heavy as 15 kg (33 pounds).

    7) Publication of the week - TossingBot: Learning to Throw Arbitrary Objects with Residual Physics (2019).
    INFO: This paper by researchers affiliated with Princeton University, Google, Columbia University and MIT showcases TossingBot, an UR5 robot capable of grasping arbitrary objects from unstructured bin and throwing them into target bins outside of manipulator’s workspace at 500+ mean picks an hour. The neural network developed in this project consists of perception, grasping and throwing modules. The system uses an RGB-D camera for creating a height map (later used by grasping and throwing modules) and an overhead RGB-D camera that is used to detect changes in the landing zone before and after the throw. The system achieves 84.7% accuracy in real world conditions for the objects seen during training. You can find more information on the project, including videos on the project website.


    1) Rovco (Bristol, UK) - Robotics Engineer.
    INFO: Rovco is a fast-growing subsea robotics company focused in the renewables and offshore decommissioning sectors. We are advancing the state of the art in subsea robotics by developing the technology for live 3D vision and machine learning based data analysis.

    2) Neobotix (Heilbronn, Germany) - Software developer – ROS.
    INFO: Neobotix develops and manufactures mobile autonomous robots for professional service robotics research. Our portfolio ranges from intelligent autonomous vehicles to mobile manipulators to tailor-made robots forhighly specialised applications.


    0) Introducing Announcement section.
    Weekly Robotics
    INFO: We are introducing an announcement section dedicated to robotics related announcements such as workshops, events, grants and more! If you would like your organization to be featured in this section then please get in touch with us.

    1) ROS-I EU Spring ’19 Workshop.
    INFO: ROS-Industrial EU Tech Workshop will take place from May 6th to May 7th 2019 in Stuttgart, Germany. The workshop will focus on ROS 2, specificaly DDS/RTPS implementation, microROS and poriting of ur_modern_driver to ROS 2. The workshop is free for members of any ROS-Industrial Consortium or 500 Euro for individuals from other organizations.

  • Weekly Robotics #31

    1) PathFinding.js.
    INFO: PathFindings.js is an open source project providing path finding algorithm for web based games. The page above provides an interactive visualization of some of the algorithms provided by the library.

    2) Robot Hand is Soft and Strong.
    INFO: MIT researchers created an origami shaped, vacuum-powered gripper that can lift objects that are up to 100 times heavier than its weight. You can see the gripper in action on YouTube.

    3) Autonomous Snowplow Makes Debut on Winnipeg Runway.
    CTV News
    INFO: Northstar Robotics developed an autonomous snow plower that is meant to be used at an airport. According to this post the machine is powered by ROS.

    4) Space Gateway.
    INFO: In 2020s the partners of the International Space Station will launch a Space Gateway - a staging post much higher than ISS that could be used as an intermediate point for astronauts before going on the missions deeper into space. The gateway will weight 40 tonnes and the astronauts will be able to occupy it for up to 90 days at a time.

    5) Jetson Nano.
    INFO: NVIDIA announced Jetson Nano, a 99$ single board computer for AI and Robotics. The board has dimensions of 70 x 45 mm and according to the above website the board will require up to 10 watts of power. Jetson Nano will be available from distributors worldwide from June 2019. If you get one and want to install ROS Melodic on it then you might like this tutorial by Stereo Labs.

    6) Robotic Dreams, Robotic Realities: Why Is It So Hard to Build Profitable Robot Companies?.
    INFO: This article from IEEE talks about how difficult it is to be profitable in robotics and how we should build realistic expectations for our products and avoid overselling.

    7) Publication of the week - Snapbot: a Reconfigurable Legged Robot (2017).
    Disney Research
    INFO: This paper introduces a modular legged robot design that can use up to 6 legs. The legs come at 2 DOF (roll-pitch or yaw-pitch) or 3 DOF (roll-yaw-pitch) variants, creating 700 possible robot configurations. The robot has snap-on connectors with 4 neodymium magnets and pogo-pin electrical connectors. The connector design combined with providing each servo with an ID allows for configuration discovery (performed every 100ms). The robot supports three types of motion: rowing, crawling and working, all depending on the leg configuration. You can see the video presenting the robot on YouTube.


    1) Latent Logic (Oxford, UK) - Robotics Engineer.
    INFO: Latent Logic’s mission is to use state-of-the-art A.I. to learn complex human behaviours from real demonstrations, such as video data, so that we can design autonomous systems which can work collaboratively alongside humans.