Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [3/20]

  • Weekly Robotics #68

    Issue 68

    1) GLUON丨Modular Desktop Collaborative Robotic Arm by SCA.
    INFO: Have you heard of this desktop robot arm that has been live on Kickstarter for quite a while now? The company managed to beat the funding goal over 40 times (as I’m writing this over 366k Euro had been pledged, with the funding goal being only 9k Euro). The robot is using BLDC motors, the 6-axis model can handle a payload of 0.5 kg and an advertised precision of 0.1mm. You can see a review of this robot arm by Skyentific on YouTube. Big thanks to Krzysztof for letting me know about this campaign.

    2) Skydio 2 Review: This Is the Drone You Want to Fly.
    IEEE Spectrum
    INFO: This article is an in-depth review of Skydio 2, an autonomous tracking drone equipped with six 4K cameras feeding information to the system running on NVIDIA Jetson TX2. I found this short behind the scenes video to be a good watch, especially the camera calibration process (you will find it at 20s timestamp). I so wish these drones came with an API we could interface to!

    3) The Zebracorn’s TileRunner Nano Tutorial.
    Google Docs
    INFO: Zebracorns, a FIRST® Robotics Competition team, had prepared a tutorial on deploying ROS on a TileRunner mobile robot chassis. At 47 pages the document is going to a good amount of depth.

    4) Quadcopter Programming Part 2: Using the CMSIS Library and First Takeoff.
    INFO: Back in Weekly Robotics #29 I had posted the first tutorial from Tim on bare metal STM32 programming of a quadrotor. This is the second post in the series where you actually get to take off.

    5) cozmo_ros2_ws.
    INFO: It looks like Anki Cozmo can run ROS2 now. If you would like to try this out but don’t have Cozmo then you might want to hurry up, while some shops still have these robots in stock since Anki had closed last year (as I reported in #37).

    6) What Went Down at ROSCon 2019.
    INFO: Are you like me and missed the whole ROSCon 2019? If you are looking for some succinct notes then this article is a good start.

    7) Publication of the Week - The Robots are Coming – to Your Farm! AKA: Autonomous and Intelligent Robots in Unstructured Field Environments (2019).
    Carnegie Mellon University
    INFO: I love these CMU seminars. I learn so much from every one of them (the last one I posted was in October). In this one Girish Chowdhary talks about automation in unstructured environments plant monitoring. The robots presented are quite small and are deployed in corn fields but due to the canopy occlusion the GPS was not precise enough and hence the team decided to use a LiDAR. The second half of the talk focuses on using AI for robotics.


    1) FarmWise (San Francisco, CA, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: FarmWise builds autonomous farming devices that help solve the labor shortage encountered by many farmers in the US and we also drastically reduce the amount of chemical used in the farming process.

    2) Liquid Robotics (Sunnyvale, CA, US) - Senior Software Engineer.
    INFO: Liquid Robotics builds autonomous, wave- and solar- powered maritime sensor vehicles that return real-time data from the open ocean to customers on shore.

    3) Dyson (Malmesbury, UK) - VR Software Engineer, Embedded Software Engineer.
    INFO: Dyson’s Robotics Research Software Team specialises in creating early stage proof-of-concept systems that utilise state-of-the-art software algorithms, frameworks, techniques, and tooling.


    1) Join the AWS JPL Open-Source Rover Challenge.
    INFO: AWS and JPL announced a challenge where teams will use machine learning to autonomously operate JPL’s Open Source Rover (I had featured this project in the first issue of this newsletter). In the challenge participants will use AWS RoboMaker for the simulation and Amazon SageMaker to build and train RL models. The competition is open until the 21st of February 2020.

  • Weekly Robotics #67

    Issue 67

    1) Hi Honey! NASA’s Second Astrobee Wakes Up in Space.
    INFO: It looks like Luca Parmitano gets to play with Robots quite a lot while onboard ISS. Just last week I reported on him controlling a ground robot from space. This time Luca got to perform some initial tests on the second Astrobee. Since the hardware on both robots is identical Honey will get to use the map already created for Bumble. As always I will keep you posted on this project.

    2) SmallKat: An Adorable Dynamics Oriented Robot Cat.
    INFO: This Hackaday project features an open-source small quadruped cat robot. The 16 degrees of freedom are achieved using MG92b Micro Servos. For more information you can see the project repository. If you would like to have one then please consider buying it from creators on tindie and help support the project.

    3) Hease Robotics Shuts Down After Fire Destroys Business.
    The Robot Report
    INFO: Sad news from France. Hease Robotics, a company that was developing service robots, shut down on November 7th. According to the article, the main reason for shutdown was the fire that burned the company’s offices, production facilities and stockpiles.

    4) Using Swarms of Drones to Map and Help Fight Wildfires.
    INFO: Engineers from University of Michigan developed UAVs that can map the boundaries of fires and provide real-time estimates to the ground crew.

    5) NASA’s Latest Software Catalog Offers New Codes, Easier Way to Download Free Software.
    INFO: NASA had released the 2019-2020 software catalog. If you browse the database you will find lots of open source projects and some open only to US citizens or federal employees. Some interesting projects I found are AprilNav, PX4 Autopilot Simulink Interface and Vehicle Sketch Pad.

    6) 6 Autonomous Mobile Robot Trends to Watch.
    The Robot Report
    INFO: This article by Eugene Demaitre covers some trends in mobile robotics. I found the first one about accuracy to be on point.

    7) Publication of the Week - Mechanical and Control Design of an Industrial Exoskeleton for Advanced Human Empowering in Heavy Parts Manipulation Tasks (2019).
    INFO: I found this publication on the r/robotics reading thread. Huge thanks to Chestergc for sharing it! This paper discusses mechanical design consideration for an affordable 2 DOF industrial exoskeleton to assist factory workers in lifting tasks. The paper is easy to follow, I just wished a practical implementation was described too.

    1) Giving LaMa a Shot.
    INFO: I’ve recently had a chance to work a bit with iris_lama, a ROS package for SLAM. The above blog post describes my experience with it and compares it to slam_toolbox. Spoiler alert: iris_lama is very lightweight on CPU, with my laptop I was seeing 14% of CPU usage while mapping my office.


    1) Airnamics (Ljubljana, Slovenia) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Airnamics mission is to create the most advanced autonomous robotics systems by integrating proprietary virtual simulation environment with cutting edge mechatronic components. Our model based and AI driven design process is optimised for safety, performance and ease of use.

    2) ETH Zurich (Zurich, Switzerland) - Technical Lead Robotics Platform.
    INFO: In 2019, ETH hast started an initiative for a Center for Robotics. The goal of this cross-departmental initiative of MAVT, ITET, INFK, USYS, MATL, ARCH, BAUG, and HEST is to develop the strong competences of ETH in robotics into a joint research and educational platform.

    3) Tesla (Fremont, CA, US) - Robotics Engineer.
    INFO: Tesla is accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy. We design, manufacture, sell and service the world’s best solar technology, energy storage systems, and electric vehicles, providing customers the opportunity to generate, store and consume energy entirely sustainably.

  • Weekly Robotics #66

    Issue 66

    Have you heard of paradox of automation? It says that the more efficient and automated the system the more crucial is human contribution of the operators. I liked how this concepts was presented in The Personal MBA.

    1) Luca Aces Telerobotic Lunar Geology Test Drive.
    INFO: The first ESA experiment I reported in the Issue #59 took place this week. In the experiments Luca Parmitano took command of a rover in Netherlands while being on-board ISS. In the experiment Luca drove the rover along the obstacle course and collected a rock sample. The robot’s interface in this experiments provides haptic feedback to the user, which sounds to me like quite a challenge given the involved latency.

    2) ROS2 Eloquent Elusor Had Been Released.
    INFO: The fifth release of ROS2 occured on 22nd of November. The End Of Life for this release is November 2020 (for contrast the Dashing Diademata, a previous release, is going to be supported until May 2021). It’s good to see ROS2 maturing!

    3) Caltech and JPL Firing Quadrotors Out of Cannons.
    IEEE Spectrum
    INFO: SQUID is a prototype folding multirotor developed by researchers that weighs 530g and can be launched from a baseball pitching machine, reaching a velocity of 15m/s.

    4) Robobee Powered by Soft Muscles.
    Wyss Institute
    INFO: After the article: “Researchers at SEAS and Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have developed a resilient RoboBee powered by soft artificial muscles that can crash into walls, fall onto the floor, and collide with other RoboBees without being damaged. It is the first microrobot powered by soft actuators to achieve controlled flight”. I found using Ride of the Valkyries quite fitting to the video presenting RoboBees in action.

    5) Aquatic Rover Goes for a Drive under the Ice.
    INFO: I think BRUIE is one of the most interesting rover concepts I have seen since I started working on this newsletter. This rover is meant to be deployed underwater, and use buoyancy to drive on the ice. You can see how this rover works in this YouTube video from 2015.

    6) Mobile Robot Programming Toolkit.
    INFO: Mobile Robot Programming Toolkit (MRPT) is a collection of mobile robotics application and libraries. The project is open source, with a BSD licence. If you happen to use ROS then MRPT also has some ROS ready packages that you can find on GitHub.

    7) Publication of the Week - The Architecture of Open Source Applications: FreeRTOS.
    INFO: In this chapter of AOSA book Christopher Svec covers the architecture of FreeRTOS - a real-time operating system kernel for embedded devices. If you are looking into Real Time systems then this book chapter might be a great start.


    1) Neuralink (San Francisco, CA, US) - Electrical Engineer, Robotics.
    INFO: Neuralink is developing ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers. We are building a team of multidisciplinary experts passionate about making a world-changing impact.

    2) Nuro (Mountain View, CA, US) - Robotics Reliability Engineer.
    INFO: Nuro is developing a self-driving vehicle for local goods transportation.


    1) Arm AIoT Dev Summit.
    INFO: Arm AIoT Dev Summit is a developer-focused conference to cast vision and share actionable technical knowledge to developers, data scientists, product managers, and all engineers and architects in IoT, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. Attendees will connect with industry leaders who will conduct deep-dive training, facilitate hands-on workshops, and share real-world use cases and solutions you can use to equip your teams with the most cutting-edge development strategies available. Use code ARMWEEKLYROBOTICS to bring your ticket price down to $49!

  • Weekly Robotics #65

    Issue 65

    This weekend I’m attending Zoohackathon thinking how we can use technology to improve anti-poaching efforts. As we’ve learned in Weekly Robotics #30 just using drones does not necessarily solve the problem. Do you have experience using Robotics in conservation efforts? I’d love to hear from you.

    1) WABOT-2.
    INFO: Reddit user LiesGround submitted the picture of Wabot-2 on /r/robotics asking if anyone has any visual materials of the robot. Maybe you can help? WABOT-2 is an anthropomorphic robot playing musical instruments developed by Researchers from Waseda University in the 1980s. The robot contained subsystems responsible for: limb control, vision, conversation, singing voice tracking and supervision. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any information about WABOT-2 that was in English and was not a paywalled research paper (if you however have an access to it it’s quite informative but personally I wouldn’t pay $30 for accessing it).

    2) Core XY Explained.
    INFO: I didn’t realize I was so far behind in the 3D printing tech. I found the video to be quite a good overview of various 3D printer types kinematics and the part I found particularly useful is the CoreXY kinematics explanation with all the advantages and disadvantages.

    3) Wyss Institute Researchers Create a Fast Multimaterial 3D Printer.
    INFO: While we are on the topic of 3D printing; Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering Researchers had developed a 3D printing method that allows switching the printing material at up to 50 times a second. This technique can be especially useful for rapid development of soft-robotics thanks to having materials with different stiffness. The linked article has a video that explains the concept behind this 3D printing method.

    4) Harvard’s UrchinBot Is One of the Weirdest Looking Robots We’ve Ever Seen.
    IEEE Spectrum
    INFO: I hold similar views to Evan Ackerman: in my case this is the weirdest looking robot I’ve seen as well.

    5) Quadruped Robots Can Climb Ladders Now.
    IEEE Spectrum
    INFO: At IROS 2019 Researchers from Tokyo Metropolitan University and Okayama University had presented this quadruped robot that can climb vertical ladders. According to the article only 1 in 5 climbs was successful with the current hardware used, however the Researchers hope to improve their setup to reduce the amount of failures and to be able to climb any ladder without prior training. If you watch the video shown in the article pay attention to the time rate shown in the lower left corner; it looks like the task is quite consuming at the moment.

    6) Your First Robot: A Beginner’s Guide to Ros and Ubuntu Core [1/5].
    INFO: The linked article is the first in a blog post series on setting up an inexpensive (~$95) robot with Raspberry Pi and ROS. If you’ve never used ROS before this series might be a good practical start!

    7) Publication of the Week - Building an Aerial-Ground Robotics System for Precision Farming (2019).
    INFO: The thing I like the most about precision agriculture is that it can drastically reduce the use of chemicals when farming. This paper introduces the Flourish project that aims at creating a precision farming solution comprised of UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) for performing aerial surveys and an UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle) to perform interventions in the field. The UAV used in the project is a DJI Matrice 100 multirotor. The UGV is BoniRob Farming Robot created by Bosch (for more details about this platform you can check this excellent IEEE Spectrum article). For those of you interested in mobile robots I highly recommend reading the section on navigation and using crop rows to aid localization.