Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [4/18]
As I’m writing this newsletter I’m at EPFL Open Days 2019 in Lausanne, Switzerland. It was quite cool to see some of the projects researchers work on at EPFL and in other Swiss organizations. Finally I was able to see ANYmal in action live! In other news every now and then I update the awesome weekly robotics list and as I’m writing this issue the list has over 70 entries!
1) Meet The 20 Finalists In The 2019 Hackaday Prize.
INFO: Hackaday announced 20 finalists of the Hackaday Prize. Among them we can find projects related to robotics such as 3D printed prosthesis with CV, BCI and EMG, Bobble-Bot (WR #38), SmallKat, Axiom: 100+kW Motor Controller and Blackbird Bipedal Robot. I can also see myself using OPEN Power at some point in the future if they ever start selling those.
2) Slam Toolbox.
INFO: slam_toolbox is a ROS package for 2D lifelong mapping and localization in potentially massive maps developed by Steve Macenski. I started setting it up this week with Robosynthesis and if you are doing SLAM with ROS I highly recommend checking it out. My experience so far is that if you have a odom->base_link transform and a semi decent LiDAR then this package can work very well pretty much out of the box.
3) EU Long-term Dataset with Multiple Sensors for Autonomous Driving.
INFO: Engineers from Université De Technologie De Belfort-Montbéliard released a number of datasets containing data from various sensors mounted on a car. Among the sensors used we can find 2 stereo cameras, 3 lidars, radar, GNSS receiver with RTK base station, IMU and 2 RGB cameras. The datasets are provided in the form of ROS bagfiles.
4) Russia Terminates Robot Fedor After Space Odyssey.
INFO: Skybot F-850 (featured in issues #53 and #54) completed his mission and according to the article it won’t be coming back to the ISS any time soon. Apparently using legs in space is no easy feat!
5) Water Jet Powered Drone Takes Off With Explosions.
INFO: Researchers from Aerial Robotics Lab at Imperial College London had developed a ‘fying fish’ fixed-wing UAV that is propelled by gas explosions. The gas is created from the reaction of calcium carbide with water (you can see some experiments on that on YouTube) and when ignited the water forced out of the combustion chamber generates 51 N of thrust, launching the robot as high as 21 meters up. You can see the drone in action in this video.
6) This Adorable Baby T-Rex AI Learned To Dribble.
INFO: This video from Two Minute Papers shows using AI to compose complex motions from the sum of elementary movements. Even though this paper demonstrates the solution for 3D animations, I can see how it could be utilized on robots with complex kinematic chains. Big thanks to Artur for the tip about this video!
7) Publication of the Week - ShapeBots: Shape-changing Swarm Robots (2019).
INFO: Each ShapeBot is equipped with 2.5 cm thin reel-based linear actuator that can extend to 20 cm (~7.9 in) both horizontally and vertically The work presented in the paper is the result of collaboration between the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Tokyo. The robots are relatively simple with ESP8266 microcontroller used as the brains of the robot and BOM summing up to 20-25 USD. I found the ShapeBots simulator to be very satisfying to experiment with and nicely showing the concept of these robots being used in a swarm setting. You can find the video showcasing the bots in action on YouTube.
1) Parkopedia (London, UK) - Robotics Software Engineer.
INFO: Parkopedia was founded with the mission of being able to answer any parking question, anywhere in the world. In the Autonomous Driving team we’re creating Highly Autonomous Driving (HAD) indoor parking maps and testing those maps on our autonomous car to ensure that they are suitable for localisation and navigation.
2) Apex.AI (Palo Alto, CA, USA) - Senior Field Application Engineer.
INFO: We envision a world of seamless and safe autonomous mobility. Pursuing this vision, we have built a team of the best engineers in their field working together focussed on enabling our customers to take automated mobility applications to production.
1) The Space Robotics Challenge Phase 2.
INFO: As NASA moves forward with plans to support human exploration of the solar system, a critical need arises to supply basic materials such as oxygen (O2) and water (H2O), food, propellants, and other materials (radiation shielding, clothing, etc.). As mankind ventures farther from Earth and for greater periods of time, it becomes imperative to develop technologies and mission architectures that utilize local resources, such as those found in lunar regolith, to provide supplies needed for human exploration. The objective of SRC Phase 2 is to find solutions to allow a heterogeneous, multi-robot team to autonomously complete tasks envisioned for a lunar in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) mission. This challenge will require competitors to develop software that allows a virtual team of robotic systems (i.e. virtual robotic team) to operate autonomously to successfully achieve these tasks. The application deadline is the 20th of December this year.
Reading an article on 15 years of Hackaday made me realize just how quickly technology is advancing these days. 15 years is just a half of my life and around half life ago my computer was still running a 351 MHz Pentium II processor. Thinking that right now I can get a Raspberry Pi Zero that is smaller than a business card and has 1 GHz processor is simply unbelievable. As cheesy as it sounds, we live in the future.
1) A Car Phone — No, Not That Kind.
INFO: Deeprc is a project by Piotr Sokólski that can be considered a google cardboard for RC cars. The brain of the device is the phone that fits in the chassis and connects to the steering servo and a brushless motor. A mirror angled at 45 degrees allows to use the phone camera as a vision sensor. You can learn more about DeepRC Robot Car on the project page.
2) XIVO: X Inertial-aided Visual Odometry and Sparse Mapping.
INFO: XIVO is a library for visual-inertial odometry/mapping developed by UCLA researchers. The library can work either as a standalone project or it can be used with ROS. Currently the licence allows to use it for academic/research purposes, however a commercial licence is available.
3) The Robot Ship Set to Cross the Atlantic and Change the World.
INFO: This article covers Maxlimer, an unmanned surface vehicle developed by SEA-KIT. The vessel can autonomously deliver up to 2.5 tonnes of cargo. We need to point out that the article mentions that the Maxlimer is posed to become the first unmanned surface vessel to cross the Atlantic. As far as I know this feat was already accomplished by Sailbuoy and Saildrone.
4) A Gentle Grip on Gelatinous Creatures.
The Harvard Gazette
INFO: The researchers had created grippers capable of safely capturing some of the most delicate animals on the planet. “The gripper’s six “fingers” are composed of thin, flat strips of silicone with a hollow channel inside bonded to a layer of flexible but stiffer polymer nanofibers. The fingers are attached to a rectangular, 3D-printed plastic “palm” and, when their channels are filled with water, curl in the direction of the nanofiber-coated side. Each finger exerts an extremely low amount of pressure — about 0.0455 kPA.”
5) Drone Crowdfunding Status Updated.
INFO: Charles Blouin on DIY Drones forum updated an original spreadsheets by Chris Anderson that lists some of the crowdsourced Drone projects and their status. It’s interesting to see how many of these projects are delayed but still seemingly active. Hope the companies can deliver!
6) Reach Robotics Shuts Down Consumer Robotics Business.
The Robot Report
INFO: Reach Robotics, that sold consumer entertainment hexapod robots shut down earlier this week. This is yet another proof that doing consumer robotics is difficult.
7) Publication of the Week - ASSURE UAS Ground Collision Severity Evaluation Final Report 2017-2019.
INFO: This document is an 830 pages collection of reports developed by the ASSURE team. “The goal for this team was to assess injury potential of various SUAS of different material properties and construction. The team conducted fixed wing and multirotor SUAS failure flight testing and aerodynamic modeling, full anthropomorphic test device (ATD) impact testing, simplified head and neck only ATD impact testing, ATD and humanâ€body model impact simulations, Post Mortem Human Surrogate (PMHS) impact testing, and high-fidelity head and neck only impact simulations. During this project, researchers collected data on over 41 flight test points, 155 simplified impact tests, 133 ATD impact tests, 41 PMHS impact tests, over 100 full-ATD and human-body model impact simulations, and 15 high-fidelity head and neck simulations. Tests were conducted with 16 different multi-rotor and fixed-wing SUAS and objects (payloads, wood blocks and batteries) with weights ranging from 0.75 - 13.2 lbs”.
1) Caressoma (Winterthur, Switzerland) - Chief Technical Officer.
INFO: Caressoma builds a robotic tool for soft tissue monitoring. It is our mission to reduce the number of soft-tissue injuries, support injury recovery and help track the evolution of soft-tissue diseases.
2) Astrobotics (Pittsburgh, PA) - Various Positions.
INFO: At Astrobotic, we’re in the business of bringing space within everyone’s reach. If you have a genuine passion for space robotics, a desire to build real hardware, and are among the best in your field, we’re looking for you.
3) LG ( Santa Clara, CA, US) - Sr. Embedded Engineer (ROS).
INFO: At LG we make products and services that make lives better, easier and happier through increased functionality and fun. Put simply, we offer the latest innovations to make “Life Good” – from home appliances, consumer electronics, vehicle components and mobile communications to business innovations in digital signage, air conditioning, solar and LED lighting.
4) RightHand Robotics (Somerville, MA, US) - Various Positions
INFO: RightHand Robotics (RHR) is a leader in providing end-to-end solutions that reduce the cost of e-commerce order-fulfillment of electronics, apparel, grocery, pharmaceuticals, and countless other industries. Unlike traditional factory robots that can be complex to set up and are singly purposed, RHR solutions are simple to integrate and adaptable to improve the utilization of many different customer workflows, such as sorting batch-picked items, picking items from an ASRS, inducting items to a belt sorter, and order quality assurance.
1) ESMERA Open Call.
INFO: The EU funded robotics project ESMERA (European SMEs Robotics Applications) has opened its second open call. Within that call, industrial end users have defined specific challenges that are to be solved by introducing a robotics solution. The challenges come from the areas of Manufacturing, Energy, Construction, Agriculture, Food Processing, Retail, Healthcare and Emergency Response. Until December 2nd, European SMEs can now apply to solve one or more of these challenges by developing a robotics application and receive funding of up to 200.000 Euros.
2) ESA Open Day 2019.
INFO: Registrations are now open for ESA’s Open Day in the Netherlands on Sunday 6 October – your chance to meet astronauts, space experts and see behind the scenes of Europe’s space adventure at ESA’s largest establishment. You can register for a visit using this link.
This week I managed to forget my login details to my RSS reader. Resigned I started adding sources from memory and ended up finding lots of interesting blogs and news sites. Thanks to feedly support being super helpful and I managed to log back in to my main account. In my book that’s an OK (albeit a bit stressful) way to end up with 20+ new sources to look at when doing research for this newsletter.
1) Unpiloted Soyuz Capsule With Humanoid Robot On Board Finally Reaches Space Station.
INFO: Last week we mentioned that Soyuz Capsule carrying Skybot F-850 humanoid robot experience issues with docking. You will be glad to hear that the robot made it safely to the ISS and as soon as I hear on some reports about performing experiments with it I’ll let you know!
2) CIMON Back on Earth After 14 Months on the ISS.
INFO: Some robots need to come down in order for others to go up. CIMON, a robot assistant for astronauts that we covered in issue #17 had made it to earth. You can see the robot in action in this video.
3) MIT’s Fleet of Autonomous Boats Can Now Shapeshift.
INFO: “Roboats” are now able to reassemble into different configurations to form floating platforms in Amsterdam. These boats are intended to be used to construct floating bridges, transporting goods and people and collecting trash.
4) Webots Meets ROS.
INFO: Webots, a robot development environment that went open source at the end of last year (as reported in WR #19) made it to ROS. You can find a tutorial showing example launch files with various robotics platforms on ROS wiki.
5) Skid Steer Mows Airport Grass Autonomously.
INFO: In this post we can learn about an autonomous mower utilizing ArduPilot to perform runway mowing. You can learn more about the technical details of the project on author’s blog.
6) Nothing Gets In: Waterproof Enclosure Design 101 (and IP68).
INFO: I found this article to be quite informative. It covers IP ratings, seals and enclosure design.
7) Publication of the Week - Underactuated Robotics: Algorithms for Walking, Swimming, Flying and Manipulation (2019).
INFO: Underactuated Robotics is a course taught by Professor Russ Tedrake at MIT. The above link contains notes on the topics covered in the lectures that are freely available on YouTube.
1) ROS Web Tutorial Part 3 - Web Video Server.
INFO: I’ve created the last tutorial in my ROS web tutorial series. In this one I’m exploring web_video_server and how you can use it to stream camera feed over HTTP with ROS. If you’d be interested in some more advanced ROS tutorials feel free to let me know. If there is enough interest I’ll start publishing tutorials regularly.
1) Osaro (San Francisco, CA, US) - Various Positions.
INFO: Osaro is a startup applying deep learning technology to next-generation robotics applications. Our vision is to build brains for robots on an industrial scale and we are excited and driven to see the results of our efforts operating in and interacting with the real world.
2) Lancaster University (Lancaster, UK) - Research Associate: Collaborative Technologies in Underwater Robotics and Computer Vision.
INFO: A research position is available to work on an exciting, cross-disciplinary million pound project with a team of industrial partners (including QinetiQ, Nuvia, Bristol Maritime Robotics Ltd and Fortis Mechanical Design Ltd) funded by Innovate UK to investigate and develop next generation autonomous robotic systems that will operate in hazardous underwater environment with little direct human involvement.
3) Oceaneering (Hanover, MD, US) - Senior Systems Engineer, Robotics.
INFO: Oceaneering Advanced Technologies’ Mobile Robotics Innovation Lab (MRIL) is the latest initiative to continue growing Oceaneering’s pioneering robotics heritage and portfolio in an ever-exciting time for autonomous systems and AI. Our group investigates and develops new markets, products, technologies and business models in order to drive long-term growth for our lines of business.
1) ArduRover Boat Uses Tupperware To Float.
INFO: Very interesting project utilizing ArduRover (an ArduPilot project). As you can guess the author of the project used a tupperware as a base platform for a boat. The tupperware used works surprisingly well for it shape and I recommend to watch the 18 minutes video featured in the article.
2) A Cave Is No Place for Humans, So DARPA Is Sending In the Robots.
INFO: The first circuit of DARPA Subterranean Challenge (we’ve mentioned it in the 2nd issue of Weekly Robotics) took place from August 15th-22nd. The above post is a good article that sums up the challenge. The winner of this event was the Explorer team from Carnegie Mellon University and Oregon State University. While on the topic, I highly recommend taking a look at this IEEE Spectrum article showing how the teams approached inevitable communication issues. On DARPATV YouTube channel you will find lots of interesting videos about the challenge, including circuit presentation, videos from the participating teams and more.
3) Louise Poubel on the Robot Operating System.
INFO: Big thanks to Artur for sending me this podcast episode in which Wesley Reisz interviews Louise Poubel from Open Robotics. In the podcast you can learn interesting insights on ROS2, Ignition simulation and robot development. The biggest takeaway for me from this podcast was that in the future Gazebo simulator will be retired in favour of Ignition Robotics.
4) Russian Humanoid Robot to Pilot Soyuz Capsule to ISS This Week.
INFO: This article briefly describes Skybot F-850, a humanoid robot that was launched to ISS onboard Soyuz MS-14 last Thursday. The robot was meant to describe pre-launch preparations and report report flight parameters pos-launch. After arrival to ISS it’s meant to be used for a week to perform several tasks that are not public at this point. On Saturday the Soyuz docking procedure was aborted due to rendezvous system malfunction. According to Roscosmos tweet a next automatic docking attempt will take place on Tuesday (27th of August).
5) YAK: 3D Reconstruction in ROS2.
INFO: This article presents the work on Yak (Yet Another KinectFusion), a set of libraries that can be used for volume representation of parts in ROS. The library is licenced under MIT licence and you can find it on GitHub.
6) Can Rocket Lab Really Catch a Rocket With a Helicopter?!.
INFO: I found this piece by Tim Dodd to be a very good read about the different methods of rocket recovery and their feasibility. Thanks Tim for a solid lesson on space flight!
7) Publication of the Week - MuSHR: A Low-Cost, Open-Source Robotic Racecar for Education and Research (2019).
INFO: Via website: “The Multi-agent System for non-Holonomic Racing (MuSHR) is an open-source robotic hardware and software platform for learning and researching AI in a setting of autonomous vehicles and mobile robotics”. The platform is based on off-the shelf R/C car and components and has been built in Personal RoboticsLab at the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen Schoolof Computer Science & Engineering. In the BOM we will find such items as: IntelRealsense D435i, YDLIDAR X4 (you can find my review of this sensor on my blog), VESC, Nvidia Jetson Nano and Vex Robotics Bumper Switch.The full platform built together with an RGBD sensor should cost around $900 (sensorless version should cost about $600). For more information about the project check out project repository.
1) Terabee (Saint Genis-Pouilly, France) - Various Software Engineer and Developer Positions.
INFO: Terabee is a dynamic and fast-paced technology company (located close to Geneva, next to CERN), that manufactures and sells Time-of-flight distance sensors, 3D depth cameras, and Thermal cameras and are building new applications in the fields of mobile robotics, IoT and Industry automation.
2) DreamVu (Hyderabad, India) - Various Positions.
INFO: At DreamVu we are building a unified omni-stereo camera platform for disrupting high value machine vision and human vision markets. Our motto is to Capture Reality like Never Before.