Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [2/20]

  • Weekly Robotics #72

    Issue 72

    Starting from next week I’ll be publishing the newsletter on Monday’s CET instead of Sundays for at least 5 weeks due to some changes in my schedule, hope you won’t mind!

    Even though I didn’t sum up the 2019 in robotics many others did! The one I particularly liked for robotics related news is the Robotshop summary. The Robot Report made a list of companies we’ve lost in 2019, that I also found to be a good reminder how difficult robotics business can be.

    Some summaries tangent to the newsletter that I’ve enjoyed are the Top MIT research stories of 2019, 2019 Space Station Research in Pictures by NASA and 5 minutes long video of ESA highlights 2019.

    1) Hello (Real) World with ROS – Robot Operating System.
    TU Delft
    INFO: In 10 days a free 6 weeks ROS course will start on edX platform. The expected workload is approximately 8-12 hours per week and looking at the curriculum course should cover most of the basic on using ROS with Python.

    2) SPHERES.
    INFO: I learned about SPHERES by reading the article NASA 2019 Space Station Research in Pictures. Each of these satellites is a polyhedron with a mass of about 4.1 kg and a diameter of 21 cm. They use CO2-based cold-gas thrusters for movement and ultrasonic beacon for localization. According to the linked articles they were predecessors to Astrobee, one of my favourite robots (#35, #39, #44, #60).

    3) 2,000 Drones Light up Night Sky in Shanghai to Welcome New Year.
    INFO: Have you seen this Shanghai drone display? It looks to me that the swarm control of multiple drones is solved problem.

    4) Road-Marking Robot Adds Hard Drive to New A14.
    Cambridge Independent
    INFO: It looks like lane pre-marking is a very time consuming and dangerous task. According to the article a line pre-marking robot had been deployed in some of the UK roadworks saving hundreds of hours for both the workers and drivers. The featured robot seems to be TinyPreMarker developed by TinyMobileRobots, a Danish robotics company.

    5) Atlas - 6DOF 3D Printed Universal Robot.
    INFO: For some reason I’m attracted to the idea of using BLDC motors in robot arms. In this project Damian Lickindorf is using ODrive to control two of the axes of the robot arm (the rest of the joints are using stepper motors). The robot is capable of carrying loads of up to 2.5-4.5 kg depending on speed of movement. If you like robot arms then I recommend checking out the project gallery. It contains amazing renders and videos of the author testing the robot.

    6) The Material Science of Metal 3D Printing.
    INFO: This video from Real Engineering discusses the current state of additive manufacturing techniques vs. the traditional manufacturing processes, especially when scale is considered.

    1) Python & Machine Learning by Packt Bundle.
    Humble Bundle
    INFO: If you are interested in Machine Learning then you might like this bundle of ebooks from Packt. In the bundle you can get up to 21 books for $15. By purchasing the bundle you can support Innocent Lives Foundation and if you use the above link you can choose to support Weekly Robotics too.


    1) Resolve Robotics (Whitehaven, Cumbria, UK) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Resolve Robotics provides bespoke and rapidly delivered solutions for remote access, monitoring and intervention in hazardous environments. Founded in August 2019, the company has gained significant interest from key nuclear clients and is about to begin the development of our first core product.

  • Weekly Robotics #71

    Issue 71

    Last year, right around this time, I run a special edition of the newsletter: Robotics in 2018. Unfortunately, this time I didn’t have nowhere enough time to create something of this magnitude. I’ll discuss my time constraints in the Q4 report that I should feature in the next newsletter issue but if you’d like a teaser then I would like to take this newsletter to a next level. Hang tight!

    1) Anki Assets Acquired by Edtech Startup Digital Dream Labs.
    The Robot Report
    INFO: Anki was the company behind Vector and Cozmo robots that close down last year (I’ve mentioned that in issue #37). As The Robot Report reports the company’s assets were acquired by Digital Dream Labs. I like the idea of Open Source Vector 2.0!

    2) UrbanLoco: A Full Sensor Suite Dataset for Mapping and Localization in Urban Scenes.
    INFO: If you would like to play back some robotic car data then this dataset might be for you. One of the car platforms is equipped with a LiDAR (Velodyne HDL 32E), an IMU (Xsens Mti 10), GNSS receiver, Fish-eye Camera (FLIR Grasshopper3) and RTK GNSS/INS integrated navigation system (NovAtel SPAN-CPT) used for ground truth measurement. All data is provided as ROS bags.

    3) Apollo Flight Controller 101: Every Console Explained.
    Ars Technica
    INFO: In this article Lee Hutchinson goes over the Apollo Mission Control room. I found the article to be very detailed and I love the feel the Eidophor projectors give to the room.

    4) Driving Sideways to Move Forward: Stanford Engineers Show How an Autonomous, Drifting DeLorean Can Improve Driver Safety.
    INFO: I like everything about this project but I think it might be mostly about the car. I really recommend you take a look at the gifs featured in the article. They are stunning!

    5) Building All The Robots.
    INFO: In this blog post Ben Katz makes a photo dump from assembling the herd of Mini Cheetahs.

    6) A New Concept of Future Robot Manipulators Will Be Developed from Studying Elephants.
    Sant’Anna News
    INFO: EU project PROBOSCIS aims at studying the trunk of African bush elephant species and use this information to create bio-inspired robot manipulator. The project’s end date is October 2023. I’ll try to follow it and keep you posted on any results that I find out about!

    7) Dusty Robotics FieldPrinter Automates Building Layout.
    The Robot Report
    INFO: Building Information Modeling(BIM) is a process of generating and storing all information on a building in a single place. Field Printer by DustyRobotics aims at laying out the building information directly on the build sites. The services will be offered as a robot-as-a-service (RaaS) model.

  • Weekly Robotics #70

    Issue 70

    Last week I’ve mentioned that I couldn’t find any video from the AlphaPilot AI drone race. Fortunately Martin Nievas had my back on twitter and shared this tweet that features a bit longer video that gives you an idea how the drone flew.

    I would like to wish a Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays to all of you reading this. If you’d like to get into christmas mood with some themed video then check out some from: ETH Zurich Autonomous Systems Lab, ETH Zurich Robotics Systems Lab, FZI Living Lab, ALTAIR Robotics Lab, Northern Robotics Laboratory, LAI Robotics, Technical University of Munich, Rozum Robotics. In hindsight I should have probably made a whole newsletter issue with these videos… Maybe next year! I bet I missed plenty of videos, feel free to share some with me on twitter and I’ll happily reshare them.

    1) Game of Drones at NeurIPS 2019: Simulation-based Drone-Racing Competition Built on AirSim.
    INFO: Coming back to the topic of drone racing for a bit: “at NeurIPS the AirSim research team is working together with Stanford University and University of Zurich to further democratize drone-racing research by hosting a simulation-based competition, Game of Drones. We are hosting the competition on Microsoft AirSim, our Unreal Engine-based simulator for multirotors. The competition focuses on trajectory planning and control, computer vision, and opponent drone avoidance”. AirSim is one of the many projects I featured in awesome-WR - a database highlighting some of the interesting robotics I covered in this robotics newsletter.

    2) First Drive Test of NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover.
    INFO: NASA’s MARS rover was tested earlier this week. I find it fascinating how many engineers are involved in these tests. I wonder how much data a test like this generates?

    3) Aeva Unveils Lidar on a Chip.
    Spectrum IEEE
    INFO: From time to time I hear about LiDARS on chips (or solid-state LiDARS), usually without much detail. According to the article Aeva’s solution should cost <500$ when mass produced and will offer a 120° horizontal and 30° vertical field of view and a range of up to 300 meters.

    4) Digit v2: Dynamic Obstacle Avoidance.
    INFO: Agility Robotics engineers are invading Digit’s personal space causing it to move away. I think the captions add a lot to this video.

    5) Mimic.
    INFO: Mimic is an open-source Maya plugin for controlling Industrial Robots developed by Autodesk Robotics Lab. For more information see the Mimic website - it seem to have a good amount of tutorials available. If you would like to see this plugin in action then this one year old video should give you a good idea how it works.

    6) Sarcos Demonstrates Powered Exosuit That Gives Workers Super Strength.
    IEEE Spectrum
    INFO: “If you were to ask the question, What does 30 years and $300 million look like, you’re going to see it downstairs”. This IEEE Spectrum article covers Guardian XO, a 24 DoF, a full body exoskeleton allowing the user to weight up to 90 kilograms (200 pounds). I find the company’s business model interesting as they seem to offer a Robotics-as-a-service type of solution.

    7) Publication of the Week - Multi-Functional Soft-Bodied Jellyfish-Like Swimming (2019).
    INFO: I stumbled upon this article thanks to Reddit user SDSS-J1106-1939 and his post on /r/Robotics. In this work Researchers an untethered jellyfish inspired soft robot to study jellyfish locomotion. I highly recommend watching the video showing the robot in action - when you do pay attention to the scale of these robots.

  • Weekly Robotics #69

    Issue 69

    1) Ignition Citadel Released.
    INFO: A new version of Ignition, an open source simulator being developed by Open Robotics, has been released. It looks like the software stack is maturing and will at some point take over Gazebo that will reach end of life in 2025.

    2) ROSCon 2019 Videos.
    INFO: ROSCon Videos and slides are now published. If there are any talks that you particularly liked then please let me know, I’m yet to watch some of them.

    3) AlphaPilot — Lockheed Martin AI Drone Racing Innovation Challenge.
    Lockheed Martin
    INFO: MAVLab, a TU Delft laboratory, had won the AI Drone Racing Innovation Challenge. In the challenge the teams were developing AI that could fly DRL RacerAI drones. MAVLab team managed to complete the full circuit in 12 seconds, 3 seconds faster than the UZH Robotics & Perception team and 6 seconds slower than DRL Pilot Gabriel “Gab707” Kocher. I was only able to find this one video from the event.

    4) Finland to Invest in the Future Skills of Europeans – Training One percent of EU Citizens in the Basics of AI.
    INFO: In 2020 Finland will provide European Citizens free access to the Elements of AI, an online course on AI. Finland plans to offer the course in all European languages and have an ambitious goal to educate 1% of EU citizens in the basics of AI. Thanks Finland!

    5) Café X Opens Robot Coffee Bar at San Jose Airport .
    Robotics Business Review
    INFO: If you’d like to try a coffee served by an industrial robot arm then soon you might have a chance to try it in San Jose Airport. Hope these robots come with small-talk functionality enabled by default!

    6) ESA Commissions World’s First Space Debris Removal.
    INFO: Clean Space initiative is kicking off, with the ClearSpace-1 planned launch in 2025. “The ClearSpace-1 mission will target the Vespa (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter) upper stage left in an approximately 800 km by 660 km altitude orbit after the second flight of ESA’s Vega launcher back in 2013. With a mass of 100 kg, the Vespa is close in size to a small satellite, while its relatively simple shape and sturdy construction make it a suitable first goal, before progressing to larger, more challenging captures by follow-up missions – eventually including multi-object capture”. The ‘chaser’ vehicle will grab the second stage using a quartet of robotics arms and then slow it down, so that both spacecrafts burn in atmosphere. For some more information about space cleaning initiatives you can see issue #4 and issue #21.

    7) Publication of the Week - KRAKsat Satellite Mission - Lessons Learned (2019).
    INFO: KRAKsat nanosatellite project aim was to test Ferrofluid Reaction Wheel as an orientation and rotation control system. The mission started on the 3rd of July 2019 and this report contains lessons learned during the mission. I like how honest is this report about all the issues encountered by the team that lead to project failure. We all need to start somewhere!


    1) Tractonomy Robotics (Kortrijk, Belgium) - Robotics Engineer.
    INFO: We are building the next generation of cost-effective, cooperative mobile manipulation robots for intra-logistics applications. Our aim is to build and extend our core platform, the Omnit to enable high-throughput object picking and transport for manufacturing tasks.

    2) Han’s Robot Germany GmbH (Hamburg, Germany) - Computer Vision Engineer.
    INFO: We are a young robotics company which is poised to redefine the state of the art for collaborative robots via innovations in the field of mechanics, environment perception, human machine interaction, control and artificial intelligence.