Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [3/26]

  • Weekly Robotics #90

    Issue 90

    Last week I’ve asked about the IR tracking camera used in the “surgery” robot. Many thanks to Rokus who identified the camera as Ultra Leap! The most clicked last week was pupper - the low cost open source quadruped with 18.5% opens.

    1) How Many Jobs Do Robots Really Replace?
    INFO: I think that’s an article all of us involved in making robots should read. Based on the research performed by Daron Acemoglu, an economist from MIT, adding a single robot to the workforce replaces 3.3 jobs across the US on average.

    2) Don’t Fear the Robot.
    INFO: A very thoughtful and well-written piece by Joe Jones, who developed Roomba (or DustPuppy). I’ve really liked the explanation of how difficult odometry was to pull off 20 years ago and how it would add $1k cost to the platform. “Just program the robot to remember where it’s been and not go there again” - this sounds like something I’ve been hearing a lot and it always reminds me of this xkcd strip. The article is well worth the read, I found the “three principles the team followed while developing Roomba” very refreshing.

    3) Meet Moxie, a Social Robot That Helps Kids With Social-Emotional Learning.
    IEEE Spectrum
    INFO: While reading the previous article on doing a single thing well I’ve remembered this article about a social robot from Embodied that is meant to help kids with social-emotional development. Since it’s meant to be used up to once a day for a short period of time I can imagine it can be easier to get this right. I’m looking forward to some non-scripted demonstrators!

    4) ArduBee, a Ready-To-Fly Micro drone for Education and Swarming.
    INFO: Here is an interesting project from LimnousBees - a ArduPilot enabled micro drone with PCB as the frame. It could be a very nice research platform, especially if it indeed offers 45 minutes to 1hr flight time. My only concern with this design is that if you crash and break the PCB (I’m having flashbacks to the many drone arms that I’ve broken) you will likely need to replace the whole thing. If you like this type of drones but can’t wait for ArduBee launch then Crazyflie is the closest thing I know to this concept but is way smaller.

    5) Self-Driving Cars with ROS and Autoware.
    INFO: Apex.AI will be releasing a course on self-driving cars and ROS2. Can’t wait!

    6) SQuad: A miniature robot that can walk and climb obstacles.
    INFO: Here is an interesting idea: creating a soft robot body so that it’s easier to climb obstacles.

    7) Publication of the Week - How Can Robots Help Us? (2020).
    YouTube (Chris Atkeson)
    INFO: Here is a lecture Chris Atkeson gave to students (grades 5-9) gave on Zoom. The lecture contains many interesting vintage robot videos. Something I never realised before is that Atlas cracked its shell during one of the agility demos (you can see it around 11:30 in the lecture). In the lecture you will also find some interesting facts about inflatable robots and Baymax.

  • Weekly Robotics #89

    Issue 89

    The most clicked last week was the video of Skyentific’s robot joint based on pulleys with 18.6% opens.

    1) Stanford Pupper.
    Stanford Student Robotics
    INFO: Pupper is an inexpensive ($600-$900) open-source quadruped robot that’s pretty damn cute. The brains of the robot is a Raspberry Pi running custom software. I’m actually heavily considering building one after seeing it in action.

    2) Could High-Flying Drones Power Your Home One Day?
    INFO: Some companies are working on alternatives to wind turbines that can fly to higher altitudes and generate energy making use of stronger winds. For a nice demonstrator of one uch technology you can see this video from Ampyx Power. In their solution the drone is generating energy by pulling a winch it is attached to to generate electricity.

    3) I Built A Surgery Robot [NSFW][18+].
    YouTube (Michael Reeves)
    INFO: This video contains lots of profanity and at one point lots of fake blood so I would not recommend watching this in the office. What I find interesting about this video is how well this cartesian manipulator seems to reach the target position using BLDC motor and an encoder - all driven by ODrive motor controllers. Another interesting feature I found was gesture control using an IR tracking camera (If anyone knows the model used please feel free to let me know, I couldn’t find it anywhere). What I find disturbing in these videos is Michael’s disregard for safety. It looks like 2:20 and 10:09 were some close calls for a collision with a part of the robot.

    4) Using MoveIt2 on a Industrial Open-Source Application.
    INFO: This blog post is the first one I’ve seen about running Moveit2 with ROS2 using Gazebo as a simulation environment. The ecosystem seems to have been maturing rapidly in the past year.

    5) Project ARchi3.
    YouTube (Chris Boden)
    INFO: This YouTube playlist contains lots of videos from Chris Boden in which he builds a robot arm. Currently the playlist contains 35 videos. Looks like I have a bit of catching up to do!

    6) Robots and Machines in Modern Farming Industry.
    YouTube (Brainstorm HQ)
    INFO: No voiceover, just you and 13 minutes of 8 agricultural robots. Is this what perfect Sunday evening looks like?

    7) Publication of the Week - Metric-Semantic SLAM with Kimera: A Hands On Tutorial (2020).
    YouTube (MIT SPARK Lab)
    INFO: You might remember Kimera library from the issue #61. Kimera is a real-time metric-semantic simultaneous localization and mapping library written in C++. This tutorial shows the main components of Kimera and includes a ROS demo at around 15:00. I wish more software came with video tutorials like this!

    Job Seekers

    In the issue #83 I’ve started this section to try to help out those looking for work in the times of pandemic. If you are currently looking for work then feel free to send me your details in the same format as you can see in the entries below. Please note that I will be able to list up to 5 profiles a week here.

    Name: Gustavo Rezende
    Location: Uberlândia, Brazil. Willing to relocate.
    Skills: ROS, Python, C/C++, Matlab, Java, BDI agents, Docker, image processing, gazebo, linux, git, scrum
    Profile: I am a Mechatronic Engineer and a MSc student in Automation and System Engineering, I expect to conclude my master’s by the middle of June. My research is about active perception within BDI agents reasoning cycle, and the application of BDI agents to program robots intelligence. More specifically, I am using simulated UAVs as testbed, utilizing ROS, ardupilot, gazebo, and Jason to achieve this goal. I have already worked in the past with humanoid robots, wheeled robots, positioning systems, digital image processing and precision agriculture. I am fluent in Portuguese and English, also I speak French at an intermediate level and basic Japanese.
    Social Profiles: LinkedIn, GitHub
    Email: gustavorezendesilva@hotmail.com


    1) Convergent IT (Haid, Austria) - Various Positions.
    INFO: AUTOMAPPPS is a family of robot programming software tools developed by Convergent Information Technologies GmbH. The robot programming software covers fast and easy robot offline programming (OLP), reactive robot programming and robot bin picking.

    2) Rovenso (Villaz-St-Pierre, Switzerland) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Rovenso develops autonomous agile robots for security and safety monitoring of industrial sites.


    1) Join us for World MoveIt Day 2020!
    INFO: We’re excited to announce the fifth annual World MoveIt Day is going virtual, and will be held on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 from wherever you are. World MoveIt Day is an international hackathon to improve the MoveIt code base, documentation, and community. Every year we close an impressive number of issues and merge nearly 100 pull requests, while exploring new areas of improvements for the now eight years strong framework.

  • Weekly Robotics #88

    Issue 88

    I have just finished listening to an audiobook Creativity, Inc., a piece about Pixar and creativity in business. Even though it’s not directly related to robotics I found it inspiring and will definitely look back on it as I’m growing my company. I’d especially recommend this book to managers in companies of all sizes. It has been a while since we had what I call a “full issue” containing the core of the newsletter, a publication of the week, careers section, an announcement and even a (sort of) sponsored post. The most clicked last week was Adam Savage’s video on how Spot works with 13.3% opens.

    1) You’ve Never Seen the Robot Joint Like This One!
    YouTube (Skyentific)
    INFO: If you have read issue #62 chance is that you’ve actually seen a robot joint based on a pulley system before. As usual with Skyentific videos I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the explanation of the principles behind the design and the demonstration.

    2) New Scavenger Technology Allows Robots to ‘Eat’ Metal for Energy.
    Science Daily
    INFO: Researchers from University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science are working on “metal-air scavenger” - a concept that’s bridging the gap between batteries and harvesters (for example solar panels). In this project the robot is carrying a cathode, below which a slab of hydrogel is used as an electrolyte and the metal surface the robot is touching is the anode. Here is the video showing the robot in action and the researchers explaining their invention.

    3) What Networks Will Co-Evolve With AI and Robotics?
    Rodney Brooks
    INFO: An interesting take from Rodney Brooks on what networks (think roads, railway, telephone, cloud computing) could be built because of the current pandemic.

    4) April 2020: AWS Robomaker Virtual Meetup.
    YouTube (Object Computing)
    INFO: Here is a video recording of the Object Computing virtual meetup on AWS Robomaker that I saw being announced at ROS Discourse. It seems like an interesting concept if you want to run lots of tests for your platform or handle a robotics fleet.

    5) Mithi’s Hexapod Robot Simulator.
    INFO: Here is something interesting: a web based hexapod simulator with forward/inverse kinematics. You can access the working simulator here.

    6) Astronautenassistent CIMON-2 Meistert Einstand auf der ISS.
    YouTube (DLR)
    INFO: He is back! CIMON, a free flying robot assistant, seems to be back in the ISS. If you don’t speak german - don’t be discouraged by the title, everything in the video is in English. Compared to the video I shared in the issue #54 the position control seems way better!

    7) Publication of the Week - The Canadian Planetary Emulation Terrain Energy-Aware Rover Navigation Dataset (2020).
    Sage Journals
    INFO: This paper and the dataset will be interesting for anyone looking into creating planetary rovers or testing localization algorithms in uneven terrain. The described dataset contains information from 6 runs with an average distance of 200 meters captured on a Clearpath Husky skid-steered robot. The data you will find in the set contains information from an omnidirectional stereo camera, a monocular camera, IMU, a GPS receiver, wheel encoders, Drive power monitors and pyranometer (used for measuring solar irradiance).

    1) 360 Camera for Industrial Inspection with ROS and Robosynthesis Robots.
    INFO: Here is something I’ve enjoyed working on recently: creating a 360 camera module using ROS and rviz_textured_sphere package. Thought you might enjoy this!

    Job Seekers

    In the issue #83 I’ve started this section to try to help out those looking for work in the times of pandemic. If you are currently looking for work then feel free to send me your details in the same format as you can see in the entries below. Please note that I will be able to list up to 5 profiles a week here.

    Name: Chris Perez
    Location: Washington DC, United States
    Skills: Power Electronics, Soldering, Function Generators, Bread boarding, Oscilloscopes, Python, Jenkins, EagleCAD, Matlab, Pspice, LtSpice
    Profile: Graduated from University of California, San Diego with a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering with a focus in power systems. I have a variety of interests which has led me to work in a few different areas ( Bio-Tech, Energy Research, Retail Banking) but am looking to transition into a more robotics focused industry. I’m fluent in Spanish and English and am willing to relocate.
    Social Profiles: LinkedIn
    Email: chris.perezca@gmail.com


    1) Malloy Aeronautics (White Waltham, UK) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Based near London we are an R&D and Production company that makes small and large drones. We have a dedicated team of hard working and skilled engineers and technicians, designing, building and testing VTOL vehicles of all types, for all customers.

    2) wheel.me (Oslo, Norway) - Various Position.
    INFO: wheel.me is a Norwegian Robotics & IoT company with global ambitions, located in Oslo. We help people improve the way they live and work by enabling everything indoors to move effortlessly on smart wheels.


    1) Webinar Video: Drones, Hype and COVID-19.
    INFO: On 30th of April WeRobotics will hold a webinar on drones and COVID-19. You can sign up for it by filling this form.

  • Weekly Robotics #87

    Issue 87

    The most clicked last week was the Soft Bank’s robot simulator with 14.5% opens.

    1) Virtual DonkeyCar (and Other Cars, Too) Race.
    INFO: Folks at DonkeyCar are hosting a virtual deep-learning fueled competition this week. If you look at the Meetup page you will find a link to a YouTube video showing the simulator in action.

    2) Hello (Subterranean) World!
    INFO: Michael from Open Robotics had shared a tutorial how to get started with SubT virtual challenge. Time for some cave exploration!

    3) SubT Challenge Urban Circuit Overview.
    ROS Discourse
    INFO: While we are on the topic of SubT challenge and Open Robotics: this post by Katherine Scott is the best write up on the teams and robots taking part in the challenge I’ve seen to date. I like how Katherine provides lots of background information and covers the highlights of each of the presented platforms.

    4) iRobot Education Launches to Train Future Roboticists.
    The Robot Report
    INFO: “iRobot has created a new division, iRobot Education, to house all of its education products and services under one roof. iRobot Education includes the Root coding robot, Create 2, a new iRobot Coding platform, and the company’s STEM outreach program.”

    5) Debugging a Live Saturn V.
    INFO: Not very much robotics related but this might spark your imagination: imagine approaching a 6.5M pounds (2,950,000 kg) steel barrel carrying 203,400 gallons (770,000 liters) of explosives that is ready to be launched into space just to replace one component. I can see why safety helmets wouldn’t feel like they improve your safety in any way.

    6) How Boston Dynamics’ Spot Robot Works!
    YouTube (Adam Savage’s Tested)
    INFO: In this episode of Tested Adam Savage goes over some of the functions of the Boston Dynamic’s Spot quadruped robots. What I like about videos like this is seeing the system’s from the user’s perspective and finding out about all the features the robots are shipped with.

    7) Access High-Resolution Ocean Data Sets.
    INFO: Yet another example of using robots for good. At data.saildrone.com you will find datasets captured by these unmanned surface vehicles. Information about Saildrone was previously shared in this newsletter in the issue #63 and #28.

    1) Humble Book Bundle: Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning by Morgan & Claypool.
    INFO: “We’ve teamed up with Morgan & Claypool for our newest bundle! Get ebooks like Essentials of Game Theory, Natural Language Processing for Social Media, Creating Autonomous Vehicle Systems, and more” - as always with these book bundles if you decide to purchase it then you can choose to support this newsletter and make it better.

    Job Seekers / Careers

    In the issue #83 I’ve started this section to try to help out those looking for work in the times of pandemic. If you are currently looking for work then feel free to send me. Similarly if your company is hiring Roboticists feel free to let me know and I will publish your open positions.