Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [21/23]

  • Weekly Robotics #9

    1) Researchers develop 3D printed objects that can track their own use.
    INFO: Researchers at the University of Washington use antennas to reflect a wi-fi signal in order to record the movement of 3D printed tools. No batteries required!

    2) Tanzania tests over-water delivery of medicines by drone.
    INFO: Tanzania, together with DHL and Wingcopter has completed a six month trials, delivering medicine over a distance of 60 km (37 mi). During trials the aircraft made over 160 proving flights. Wingcopter is a hybrid aircraft (can take off like a multirotor, and transition to forward flight like a fixed wing plane) with capabilities of lifting payload of up to 6 kg (13 lbs) and according to manufacturer’s website the drone can achieve a speed of 240 km/h (149 mph) during forward flight.

    3) ROSCon 2018 videos and slides.
    INFO: If you missed ROSCon 2018 the videos and slides were just made available at the link above.

    4) SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket on the California coast for the first time.
    INFO: SpaceX managed to sucessfully land the Falcon rocket on a ground for the 12th time. The objective of the mission was to take Argentina’s space agency SAOCOM 1A satelltie to the orbit.

    5) Boston Dynamics Atlas doing parkour.
    INFO: According to the description in the video the robot is using the whole body including legs, arms and torso to jump over a log and leap up the steps.

    6) Jumping Robot Salto-1P Now Goes Where You Tell It To.
    INFO: UC Berkley’s Salto 1-P (a pogo stick robot) can control leg angle and retraction in order to allow reaching a desired points on the ground. There is a motion capture system in the loop allowing for precise robot tracking and making it hope on a target that changes position.

    7) Paper of the week - Paparazzi’s Guidance Vector Field Navigation (2017).
    INFO: The above webpage (and 3 papers mentioned in the introduction) presents an introduction to Guidance Vector Field algorithm available for Paparazzi UAV (an open source drone autopilot). The approach for navigation in the presented article is to follow smooth curves while navigating (traditionally most of the autopilots use waypoints) and generating vector fields. The gifs presented are a very good way of building intuition on how vector fields work.


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  • Weekly Robotics #8

    1) What happens when a drone hits an airplane wing?
    INFO: This video shows the damage the DJI Phantom 2 could cause to an aircraft wing at 230 MPH (370 KM/H). Bruce Simpson from XJet YouTube channel commented on this research in his latest video.
    UPDATE: The video linked above caused quite a lot of controversy in the drone world. You can find more information about supposed flaws in the research carried out in this article drone life.

    2) Soft Robotics Toolkit.
    INFO: The Soft Robotics Toolkit is a collection of shared resources to support the design, fabrication, modeling, characterization, and control of soft robotic devices. The video on the home page is a great summary of everything the toolkit provides. Open Source soft actuators? Sign me up!

    3) nuScenes self-driving car dataset.
    INFO: nuScenes is a large scale dataset released by nuTonomy-Aptiv. At present you can download a set of 100 scenes, each 20 seconds long and contains information from 6 cameras, 1 LIDAR, 5 radars, GPS and IMU. All the data is annotated with bonding boxes. NuScenes promises that the final dataset containing 1000 scenes will be available for download in early 2019.

    4) Microsoft Announces Experimental Release of ROS for Windows 10.
    INFO: Robot Operating System is coming to Windows. At ROS Con 2018 Microsoft showcased a Turtlebot 3 running ROS Melodic on Windows 10. The reason this can be a big news is that it can rapidly accelerate adoption of ROS, which so far was tied heavily to Linux. If you want to find more information on ROS on Windows then the project page is probably the best place to start. We will keep an eye on this project and report back!

    5) Blimpduino 2.
    INFO: Blimpduino is an open source blimp platform. You can attach it to any balloon provided it can lift the 33g robot. The control board is based on ARM M0 chip (you can program it using Arduino IDE). Onboard you will also find an IMU (MPU9250), LIDAR sensor (up to 5m range) for height hold, WiFi chip and an embedded LiPo charger. The webpage above links to a jjrobots store where you can purchase the development kit for 99 USD (85 EUR).

    6) Rethink Robotics closes down.
    INFO: Rethink Robotics, a manufacturer of Baxter and Sawyer robots closed down this week. According to the article the company raised $150 million up to date.

    7) Paper of the week - CARLA: An Open Urban Driving Simulator (2017).
    INFO: CARLA (Car Learning to Act) is an open source driving simulator for autonomous driving research. The paper discusses the idea behind CARLA, the simulation engine (implemented on top of Unreal 4) and autonomous driving experiments (Modular Pipeline, Imitation Learning and Reinforced Learning). For more information about CARLA visit the project page.


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    1) Zoox (Foster City, CA, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Zoox was founded to create the full realization of autonomous mobility.

    2) Starsky Robotics (San Francisco, CA, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Starsky Robotics is working to make trucks autonomous on the highway and remote controlled by drivers for the first and last mile.

    3) Spyce (Boston, MA, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: At Spyce, we’ve created the world’s first restaurant featuring a robotic kitchen that cooks complex meals.

    4) Saildrone (Alameda, CA, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Saildrone designs and manufactures wind and solar-powered autonomous surface vehicles called Saildrones.

  • Weekly Robotics #7

    1) UgCS team spent 8 days on an ice cap in Greeland searching for a lost WWII fighter plane.
    INFO: The linked post is a short summary of an expedition UgCS took part in. The team used 2 DJI multirotors, one of which was carrying a Ground Penetrating Radar as a payload. The team faced interesting challenges such as batteries not having up to date firmware, collision sensors reacting with fog, and quadrotors descending into the glacier due to pressure changes.

    2) Potentially deadly automotive software defects.
    INFO: This post by Phil Koopman is a not complete selection of automotive software defects that could prove deadly. The list has been selected from the US NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) database. The issues range from air bag failures, selecting reverse while in forward motion etc.

    3) NASA-inspired robotic skins turn soft objects into robots.
    INFO: Yale University Researchers came up with a soft skin that can be put on various object to perform such tasks as grasping or moving the object. In the video presented in the article we can see at least two different types of actuators used; the first one seems to be actuated pneumatically (the one that goes on the pony)while the other one, according to the publication linked in the article, is using coiled shape memory alloys.

    4) Technical information on Hayabusa 2 rovers.
    INFO: Hayabusa 2 mission made quite a bit of news this week by landing on an asteroid. The interesting bit about those rovers is that they use hopping mechanism (with the asteroid’s gravity they can achieve an altitude of 15 meters or 50 feet). The robots are only 18 cm (7 inch) in diameter and 7 cm (2.8 inch) in height and weight around 1.1 kg (2.2 pounds).

    5) Self solving Rubik’s cube.
    INFO: A Rubik’s cube that can solve itself. At the bottom of the page you can see the disassembled cube in action.

    6) The Hunt for Robot Unicorns.
    INFO: In this IEEE guest’s post Benjamin Joffe from HAX, a hardware startup accelerator, writes abut the current buzz in Robotics world. The article is a good resource on rising robotics startups and a view on some aspects of the industry.

    7) Paper of the week - An information model for modular robots: the Hardware Robot Information Model (2018).
    INFO: The paper talks about incompatibility between robot components (and a lack of true Plug&Play capabilities for hardware and most software). Hardware Robot Information Model (HRIM) is an attempt to create a common interface for communication between robot components. HRIM itself is a part of H-ROS project and it seems to be based on ROS2.


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    1) Dishcraft Robotics (San Carlos, California, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: At Dishcraft Robotics, our mission is to revolutionize the commercial kitchen industry with robotics.

  • Weekly Robotics #6

    1) BMW made a self-driving motorcycle.
    INFO: BMW aims to create driver support system for its motorcycles. The presented self-driving functionality is a by-product of their research efforts and not a final goal.

    2) IEEE Spectrum is building a robot database.
    INFO: http://bit.ly/2PSi7pY is an IEEE robots database that at the time the article was written had 157 robots. If you suggest a robot that should be added to IEEE database by 15 October you have a chance to win a robot T-shirt (the details are in the last paragraph). Go Robots!

    3) ROSCon 2018.
    INFO: Next week (29-30.09) ROSCon 2018 is happening in Madrid, Spain. As usual, there will be a livestream of the event online so keep the date and tune in! What we find particularly exciting about the schedule is how many of the presentations cover ROS2 related efforts.

    4) Novel flying robot mimics rapid insect flight.
    INFO: TU Delft researchers from MAVLab created a flapping-wing robot inspired by fruit flies. The impressive thing about the mechanics of this robot is the 29g weight, 33 cm wingspan and a flight time of 5 minutes on a single charge. The video that you can find in the article provides a great insight into flight characteristics of the robot.

    5) NVIDIA adds AGX Xavier dev kits for robots, self-driving cars.
    INFO: NVIDIA unveiled Jetson AGX Xavier developer kits for AI robotics applications. NVIDIA claims that the new line of those processor will have 20 times more processing power than its predecessor (NVIDIA TX2) and will be 10 times more efficient.

    6) Book: Kalman and Bayesian Filters in Python.
    INFO: Open Source book on Kalman and Bayesian Filters in Python. It’s main strength (apart from being free) is that it’s written in Jupyter Notebook, which means you can modify the code and see the interactive output in your browser. You will find all the information on running the book in the repository’s Readme file.

    7) Paper of the week - White Paper on Approaches to Safety Engineering (2003).
    INFO: This paper by Nancy Leveson covers three general approaches to safety (system safety, industrial safety engineering and reliability engineering). It’s a great introduction for anyone wishing to start looking into safety considerations of their products.


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    1) Auterion (Zurich, Switzerland) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Auterion builds the tests, certified, and long-term supported distribution of PX4 for the safe operation of autonomous robots.

    2) Yaskawa Motoman Robotics (Austin, Texas, US) - Industrial Robotics Software Engineer.
    INFO: Yaskawa Motoman Robotics provides automation products and solutions for industrial and robotics applications.

    3) INVOLI (Lausanne, Switzerland) - Various Positions.
    INFO: INVOLI is a Swiss-based company which develops and produces air traffic awareness systems for professional drone applications.