Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [24/25]

  • 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.


    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.

    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.


    0) Would you like to advertise an open position in a robotics related company?
    INFO: We are starting a careers section. If you would like to advertise an open position please head over to Careers Section in the above link.

    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.

  • Weekly Robotics #5

    1) Drone Racing League launches an autonomous drone competition.
    INFO: Drone Racing League will host a range of competitions where autonomous drones will race professional FPV (First Person View) drone pilots. The prize pool is said to be $2 million.

    2) How to store LiPo batteries safely.
    INFO: If you are using any kind of LiPo batteries you ought to watch this 11 minute video showing how different kinds of battery storages handle LiPo fires. Battery fires are no joke. In this 2009 RC groups post you can find a list of battery related incidents. There are also cases of people losing their homes to battery related fires.

    3) Bat-inspired Robot uses echolocation to map, navigate environment.
    INFO: Tel Aviv University (TAU) graduate student Itamar Eliakim created a robot capable of performing Acoustic SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping). In the article you fill find an attached YouTube video presenting the robot in action.

    4) ExoMars 2016 - Schiaparelli Anomaly Inquiry (2017).
    INFO: Schiaparelli EDM (Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module) was intended to test the technology for soft landings on the surface of Mars. In October 2016 it suffered a catastrophic failure due to saturation of the IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit). The linked document presents the failure analysis performed by the Schiaparelli Inquiry Board.

    5) Robots can now pick up any object after inspecting it.
    INFO: Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) created a system called Dense Object Nets (DON) that is capable of looking at an object from various perspectives and then recognizing specific points from multiple positions. This allows the robot to grasp a specific spot on an object, even if the robot has not seen it before (the video in the article covers grasping a tongue of a shoe).

    6) 99 Things That Robots Were Supposed to Be Doing by Now.
    INFO: A rather humouristic collection of links about the expectations about robots from the past. Did you know that by now robots were supposed to help men shave in the morning? Deliver our jumpsuits? Terrorize musicians?

    7) Paper of the week - PID Without a PhD (2016).
    INFO: A classic 30 page guide to PID controllers and implementing them in code with examples. If you need a refresher on PID control or to find some strategies on controller tunning then look no further.


    0) Would you like to advertise an open position in a robotics related company?
    INFO: We are starting a careers section. If you would like to advertise an open position please head over to Careers Section in the above link.

    1) SkyCircuits (Salisbury, UK) - Real Time Embedded Software Engineer.
    INFO: SkyCircuits is a subsidiary of Callen-Lenz specialising in manned and unmanned aircraft operations and technology.

    2) Drotek (Toulouse, France) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Drotek was established in 2012 and is dedicated to intense R&D around the rise of the autonomous vehicles market.

    3) Flyability (Lausanne, Switzerland) - Automation Engineer.
    INFO: Flyability produces safe drones for inaccessible places that are collision tolerant.

    4) Trexo Robotics (Mississauga, Canada) - Robotics Software Developer Intern.
    INFO: Trexo Robotics are creating wearable robotics to help children with disabilities.

  • Weekly Robotics #4

    1) Ikarus Single Rotor Drone.
    INFO: One of the most interesting drone projects we’ve seen lately. A single rotor drone Ikarus “rocket” is based on a 70$ ducted fan. The 30 minutes investment in watching the following video will show you the decision process the author of this project has taken, the problems he experienced and lessons learned. What seems to be the core problem to solve in this type of aircraft is the gyroscopic effect compensation (very well explained at 08:00 in the video). In the linked page you will find part lists, CAD designs and autopilot setup.

    2) ESA satellite deorbiting mission.
    INFO: Space is full of junk that can delay launches or put spacecraft or astronauts at risk. ESA e-deorbit mission aims at creating a custom spacecraft to capture a retired ESA satellite and move it in such way that it burns down in the atmosphere. Currently two capture methods are considered: a net and a robotic arm (it seems that at early stages of the project a harpoon was also a consideration).

    3) Japanesee hotel staffed by dinosaurs.
    INFO: Henn na Hotel in Japan is said to be fully staffed by robots. The guests will experience animatronic dinosaurs and fish in the hotel lobby, as well as robotic vacuum and window cleaners. Inside the rooms the guests will find a dinosaur egg assistant, allowing them to control some aspects of the room (light, TV and so on). If you want to see the hotel in action there is a video by Abroad In Japan.

    4) Neato vacuum cleaners to introduce persistent maps.
    INFO: The more devices performing SLAM and utilizing LiDAR the better (at least for those of us waiting impatiently for LiDAR sensor prices to go down). With this feature Neato users will be able to specify the areas the vacuum cleaner should focus on the most.

    5) Skydio to introduce a developer platform
    INFO: Skydio, is a drone platform famous for its obstacle avoidance capabilities and tracking (here you can see its performance in a warehouse full of obstacles). The developer platform will allow to create custom Skills(application specific behaviours), issue movement commands, query 3D map distances, obtain telemetry data etc.

    6) Real-time Linux communications for robotic applications
    INFO: Computer Science ahead! This article from Erle Robotics engineers analyzes using Real-time Preemption Patch for UDP communication in Linux. If you look at the table that compares the results in the article you can see that without a Real-time patch the latency varies a lot (in case of stress test it’s between 262 to 46742 µs for no RT patch and 254 to 618 µs for RT Normal). Latency is especially important topic when working with safety certified systems - it’s not fast results that are of interests but consistency and determinism.

    7) Paper of the week - Feature and performance comparison of the V-REP, Gazebo and ARGoS robot simulators.
    INFO: This blog post (and a paper it links to) is a comparison of 3 open source robotics simulators: V-REP, Gazebo and ARGoS.