Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [16/20]

  • Weekly Robotics #19

    1) Drone X Challenge 2020.
    INFO: Kryptolabs is organizing a $1.5M drone challenge aimed at boosting drone related R&D and innovation. The challenge two main categories are Fixed Wing Drones and Multirotors. The application deadline is 10th of January 2019.

    2) Webots goes open source.
    INFO: Webots, a robot development environment for modeling, programming and simulating robots goes open source. The project is released under Apache 2.0 licence. For more information please see the Webots project repository.

    3) HAMR-E quadruped sticky feet robot.
    Wyss Institute
    INFO: Researchers at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have created a micro robot capable of climbing on vertical and upside-down conductive surfaces. The robot weights 1.68 grams, while the electroadhesive footpads can generate shear forces of 5.56 grams and normal forces of 6.20 grams.

    4) Robot makes world-first baby coral delivery to Great Barrier Reef.
    INFO: Southern Cross University’s Professor Peter Harrison and QUT’s Professor Matthew Dunbabin performed a trial of delivery of coral larvae in efforts of repopulating parts of the Great Bareer Reef. The researchers are using an Underwater Vehicle capable of delivering up to 100,000 larvae in a single mission.

    5) Open Mission Control Technologies.
    INFO: Via Github: Open MCT (Open Mission Control Technologies) is a next-generation mission control framework for visualization of data on desktop and mobile devices. It is developed at NASA’s Ames Research Center, and is being used by NASA for data analysis of spacecraft missions, as well as planning and operation of experimental rover systems.

    6) ESA’s winning ideas for new space transport services.
    INFO: Back in the Weekly Robotics issue 2 we mentioned European Space Agency’s competition for new space transport ideas. The results are in! The linked article describes the three winning ideas/projects. The authors of the ideas will travel to French Guiana to experience a space launch.

    7) Publication of the week - The Foldable Drone: A Morphing Quadrotor that can Squeeze and Fly (2018).
    Robotics and Perception Group
    INFO: This project by researchers from Robotics and Perception Group from University of Zurich gathered quite some attention lately (1 2). The quadrocopter described in the paper is based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon Flight flight controller. The motor frame described in this paper has each of the arms mounted on a servo motor (HiTech HS-5070MH) and offset vertically so that adjacent propellers do not collide. Folding the arms on the quadrotor impacts CoG (Center of Gravity) location, inertial tensor of the platform and thrust mapping. The multirotor can sustain a stable flight thanks to real-time adaptive control scheme. We highly recommend watching the videos linked in the paper and a radar diagram showing how different configurations affect pitch/roll acceleration, flight time and robot’s dimensions.


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    Weekly Robotics
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    1) Fraunhofer IPA (Stuttgart, Germany) - Research Associate.
    INFO: The department “Robot and Assistive Systems” at Fraunhofer IPA develops mobile service robots for the numerous applications: from small robots for the home and garden to transport assistants, inspection, and cleaning robots for the industry, or personal robots that attend and support people in their everyday lives.

    2) Teqram (Zwolle, Netherlands) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Teqram creates solutions for vision guided robotics.

    3) Space Applications Services (Sint-Stevens-Woluwe, Belgium) - Robotics Software Engineer.
    Space Applications Services
    INFO: Space Applications Services aim is to research and develop innovative systems, solutions and products and provide services to the aerospace, security markets & related industries.

    4) Wingtra (Zurich, Switzerland) - Robotics Software Developer.
    INFO: Wingtra is creating VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) drones.

  • Weekly Robotics #18

    1) DroneClash 2019 team registration is open.
    INFO: DroneClash is an drone competition where the teams have to take out other team’s drones. The team registration will be open until 15th of January 2019 and the event will take place on 16th of March 2019. Want to have an idea how the vent looks like? Check out this DroneClash 2018 video.

    2) New Class of Metamaterials Changes Physical Properties in Seconds.
    INFO: The above article describes a work being carried out by researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The researchers are creating structures that can change stifness in response to magnetic field. To achieve that a 3d printed mechanical metamaterial with hollow beam is created and a magnetorheological (MR) fluid that reacts to magnetic field is injected into the beams.

    3) Industrial exoskeletons: new systems, improved technologies, increasing adoption.
    The Robot Report
    INFO: This article from The Robot Report is a summary of state of exoskeletons in the industry. The article covers an introduction to exoskeletons, adoption programmes and enabling technologies.

    4) Centralized Collaborative Monocular SLAM for Robotic Teams.
    INFO: ETH Zurich released a framework that acts as a centralized SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation And Mapping) for robot teams. The project is open source and can be accessed on (GitHub)[https://github.com/VIS4ROB-lab/ccm_slam].

    5) ROS 2 Crystal Clemmys has been released.
    ROS discourse
    INFO: The 3rd official release of ROS 2 is now live. The release will be officially supported until December 2019.

    6) Keeping Cool: Robotic Refueling Mission 3.
    INFO: The Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3) will will test new methods for transferring and storing cryogenic fluids like liquid methane in space. Creating new methods for transferring and stroing fuels in space could be used for extending the life of satellites. The RRM3 module will demonstrate the first ever transfer of cryogenic propellant in orbit and test a number of robotics tools and vision systems needed for satellite refueling missions.

    7) Publication of the week - AI Now (2018).
    AI Now Institute
    INFO: This annual report from AI Now institute discusses the social impact of Artificial Intelligence in such areas as surveillance (including facial and emotion recognition), automated decision systems, experimenting on society (the article covers the Uber and Tesla autopilot accidents). We’ve found the report to be very insightful, especially on socio-economic issues described (the report cites 230 sources). “Accounting for Hidden Labor in AI Systems” is the chapter that stood out for us as it is, among other things, discussing the work of labeling training data and reviewing flagged content by often poorly compensated workers.


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    INFO: If you would like us to include your open position in the hiring section please feel free to send us an e-mail.

    1) Aeolus Robotics (Various Countries and remote) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Aeolus Robotics was founded to bring the first generation of household robot assistants into homes.

    2) Greenzie (Atlanta, GA, US) - Robotics Software Developer.
    INFO: Greenzie’s mission is to free humans from manual labor. We’re starting with the hardest tasks first - highly repetitive outdoor work in the green industry: lawn maintenance, turf mowing, landscaping.

  • Weekly Robotics #17

    1) Bend-It: Design and Fabrication of Kinetic Wire Characters.
    INFO: Disney Research has created a technique for producing kinetic wire characters using CNC bending machines. Researchers introduce spring-like templates in the wire so that the wire doesn’t experience plastic deformation.

    2) Why Doesn’t Amazon Deliver my Stuff via Drone? An Interview with Colin Snow on Drone Delivery.
    INFO: In this short interview Colin Snow of Skylogic Research talks about the challenges facing the concept of drone delivery.

    3) This Plant Is Driving Its Own Robot.
    INFO: Harpreet Sareen from MIT Media Lab is measuring signals from the plant and based on them drive the mobile robot base towards where plant “tells it to”.

    4) BehaviourTree.CPP.
    INFO: BehaviourTree.CPP is a C++ framework for creating Behaviour Trees which might serve as an alternative to Finite State Machine (FSM) for complex task planning. The github project contains a link to a video presenting the BehaviourTree.CPP in action. The project is open sourced under MIT licence.

    5) China prepares mission to land a rover-lander combination on moon’s far side.
    INFO: Chang’e 4 is a mission aiming to land on the dark side of the moon. The goal of the mission is to perform above and below surface exploration and possibly radio-astronomical studies. The mission launched on 7th of December and is expected to touch down on 3rd of January 2019.

    6) CIMON robot debuts at ISS.
    INFO: CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile CompanioN) is a robot assistant that was deployed to International Space Station. The robot was designed by DLR, Airbus and IBM and is using ISS WiFi and transmits the voice commands to Earth so that they can be processed by Watson, an IBM natural-language processing computer.

    7) Publication of the week - Two Years of Visual Odometry on the Mars Exploration Rovers (2006).
    INFO: Did you know that Martian rovers Spirit and Opportunity had were equipped with 45 deg Field Of View (FOV) cameras producing 256x256 pixel stereo images for visual odometry providing a rover pose estimation in 6 degrees of freedom? According to the article the Visual Odometry started as an “extra credit” functionality but ended up being a critical safety system. In the first 10.7 km driven by the rovers the visual odometry was used for over 14% of navigation, mainly on steep terrain. The disadvantage that came with the visual odometry on those rovers is that it slowed down the robots by the order of magnitude, since the calculations were run on a 20 MHz CPU.


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  • Weekly Robotics #16

    1) Point Cloud Library (PCL) data repositories.
    INFO: PCL is an open source project for 2D/3D image and point cloud processing. In the Community Data Repository section at the above link you can find open datasets with point cloud data divided into 8 categories.

    2) AWS RoboMaker.
    INFO: ROS (Robot Operating System) is coming to the cloud. The new service is a development environment that seems to support ROS Kinetic and the set of tools ROS developers are used to (e.g. Gazebo simulator, Rviz). According to the linked article RoboMaker also provides robot fleet management capabilities and over the air updates.

    3) MIT microhydraulic actuators.
    INFO: A team at MIT is working on microhydraulic actuators that utilize electrowetting to achieve the motion. Via the article: Electrowetting applies an electrical voltage to water droplets on a solid surface to distort the surface tension of the liquid. The actuators take advantage of this distortion to force water droplets inside of the actuator to move, and with them, the entire actuator.

    4) How To Do Real Time Object Detection On Drone Video Streams.
    INFO: The above link by Nanonets is a step-by-step tutorial on how to run an object detection on a live video stream using Tensorflow.

    5) How to land on Mars.
    INFO: InSight has landed last week! The above NYT article covers the stages of Mars landing in an easy to follow way. The included timeline helps put the mission in perspective.

    6) AWS DeepRacer.
    INFO: Amazon is to start selling a 1/18th R/C cars built for machine learning. Under the hood the car is said to have an Intel Atom Processor with 4GB of ram and running Ubuntu 16.04. The onboard sensors include a 4MP camera and integrated accelerometer + gyroscope. As part of the project a 3D racing will be available and the developers will be able to participate in a global racing league. The car is said to cost 399 USD but right now it can be preordered for 249 USD.

    7) Publication of the week - Comparison of ROS-based Visual SLAM methods in homogeneous indoor environment (2017).
    INFO: This paper analyses various methods for SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) in a controlled environment. The paper covers LiDAR based SLAM (Hector Slam package) used as a ground reference, Monocular SLAM (ORB-SLAM, DPPTAM), Stereo camera SLAM (ZED Camera), RGB-D SLAM (Kinect with RTAB-Map).


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    INFO: If you would like us to include your open position in the hiring section please feel free to send us an e-mail.

    1) Automata (London, UK) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Automata’s mission is to make robotics automation affordable and simple.

    2) ABB (Windsor, CT , US) - Senior Embedded Systems Engineer.
    INFO: ABB is seeking a Senior Embedded Systems Engineer for a position in a new group focusing on autonomous vehicles and mobile robotics.