Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [5/17]

  • Weekly Robotics #49

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    This week in the newsletter we feature a header image from Bossa Nova Robotics. If you would like to work on retail robots then you will find some more information about them in the careers section. Since yesterday I’m on holidays and since I’ll be spending most of my time in the wilderness and hiking I won’t be able to dedicate the usual amount of time to the project. It’s quite likely that some of the readers will take over the Publication of the week part of the newsletter for the next 3 weeks. Stay tuned!

    1) Acutronic Robotics Closes After Financing Plans Fall Through.
    Acutronic Robotics
    INFO: Sad news from Spain. Acutronic Robotics, a company behind ROS2 ready MARA arms and H-ROS will be closing its doors at the end of July. The reason cited in the above blog post are issues with financing and acquisitions. Acutronic Robotics was also part of the Ofera Consortium working on micro-ROS project that I was really looking forward to see grow.

    2) Mauled by Lions, Trampled by Elephants, Stolen by Cubs: 10 Years of Adventures with BeetleCam.
    YouTube
    INFO: Happy Birthday! Earlier this month BeetleCam turned 10. In this video Will Burrard-Lucas shares some of the stories about this mobile robot platform. I found the video to be quite entertaining and the stories captivating. The video also features many of the wildlife photos taken throughout the years.

    3) Cable Robot.
    Hackaday
    INFO: I really liked this cable robot by Tom from Hackaday. The robot is running G-code (similarly to 3D printers or milling machines) and has 3 cable hoists actuators controlled by EMC2 software.

    4) Lyft Level 5 Autonomous Vehicle Dataset.
    Lyft
    INFO: Lyft is providing access to their Level 5 autonomous driving dataset. The dataset contains raw sensor camera and LiDAR inputs, human-labelled 3D bounding boxes of traffic agents and underlying spatial semantic map. Each vehicle was equipped with: 3 LiDARs (one on the roof and 2 on the bumper, all firing at the same direction at any time), 6 wide field of view cameras covering 360 FOV around the car, one long focal length camera pointing up. On the linked website you can find a dataset sample that you can play in your browser.

    5) Automated System Generates Robotic Parts for Novel Tasks.
    MIT
    INFO: MIT researchers created a system for fabricating actuators to an enormous number of specifications. An example of the developed actuator is a portrait of Vincent Van Gogh when actuator is laid flat but when titled and activated it shows “The Scream” painting by Edvard Munch. The actuators are made of 3 different materials with various properties (colours, flexibility, magnetization). The software developed by the researchers breaks down the design into millions of voxels and then performs millions of simulations to achieve the specification.

    6) LightSail 2 Successfully Deploys Solar Sail.
    The Planetary Society
    INFO: LightSail is a crowdsourced project (I really recommend the Kickstarter video featuring Bill Nye) that is aiming to prove that a cubesat can use a 32 square meters sail as a propulsion method. The satellite is expected to keep rising the orbit for one month. It is also expected to reenter the atmosphere in about 1 year. I also recommend having a peek at the mission control.

    7) Publication of the Week - ROS Navigation Tuning Guide (2016).
    arXiv
    INFO: This guide by Kaiyu Zheng is a useful resource for tuning a wheeled robot navigation using move_base package in ROS. The guide offers a good practical approach to tuning the platform parameters, global and local planners, costmap and robot localization with AMCL.

    Careers

    1) Airbus, Project Vahana (Santa Clara, CA, US) - Flight Controls and Dynamics Engineer.
    INFO: Project Vahana intends to open up urban airways by developing the first certified electric, self-piloted vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) passenger aircraft. We envision Vahana being as a cost-comparable replacement for short-range urban transportation like cars or trains.

    2) Bossa Nova Robotics (Various Cities, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Bossa Nova is the leading provider of real-time, on-shelf product data for the global retail industry. Our robots navigate the busy retail ecosystem, collecting a wealth of data that allows retailers to improve product availability, streamline operations, and create a better shopping experience.

    3) Fraunhofer IPA (Stuttgart, Germany) - Research Associate
    INFO: The “Robot and Assistive Systems” Department designs robots and automation solutions for industrial applications and the service sector. Key technologies are developed and translated into innovative industrial robots, service robots and intelligent machines.

    Announcements

    1) Kuka Innovation Award 2020.
    Kuka
    INFO: Kuka is organizing an Innovation Award for robotics solutions for medical robotics. The participants will be able to use Kuka Robots free of charge for the duration of the challenge, present their solution during MEDICA 2020 trade fair and can win €20,000. The deadline for the application is 5th of January 2020.

  • Weekly Robotics #48

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    This week I had a chance to present Weekly Robotics newsletter during a ROS Agriculture community meeting. It was nice to share the results of the project and learn something about open source agricultural robots. You can see the meeting recording on YouTube. Really looking forward to see the autonomous tractor!

    1) Soft Robots - Computerphile.
    YouTube
    INFO: In this episode of his vlog Computerphile visits Kirstin Petersen’s Lab at Cornell where a Grad Student Steven Ceron showcases some projects the Researchers are working on.

    2) Robotics Library.
    roboticslibrary.org
    INFO: Via website: “The Robotics Library (RL) is a self-contained C++ library for robot kinematics, motion planning and control. It covers mathematics, kinematics and dynamics, hardware abstraction, motion planning, collision detection, and visualization.” The project is open sourced under a BSD licence and you can find it on GitHub.

    3) ROS 2 - Is it Time to Switch?
    Rover Robotics
    INFO: In this article from Rover Robotics we can learn a good bit on advice whether to switch from ROS to ROS 2 aimed at 7 different user groups.

    4) PythonRobotics.
    GitHub
    INFO: PythonRobotics is a collection of robotics related algorithms with nice visualizations and source code. I covered this project in Weekly Robotics #2 but recently I visited the repository again and I was surprised how much it grew since August 2018. Big thanks to Atsushi Sakai and all the maintainers of the project!

    5) NASA Climbing Robot Scales Cliffs and Looks for Life.
    YouTube
    INFO: This 4 minute documentary from NASA JPL showcases the LEMUR (Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot) robot with micro-spine grippers in its feet allowing it to scale rock walls. The LiDAR setup looks quite interesting - it looks like a sensor is placed at the end of a rotating boom allowing the robot to createa a 3D map of the wall while it’s climbing it.

    6) Build Your Own Selfie Drone With Computer Vision.
    Hackaday
    INFO: This Hackaday post showcases a video tutorial by YouTube user geaxgx1 on enabling a DJI Ryze Tello to follow a person. The author is using openpose library for pose estimation from the video feed. You can find the geaxgx1 source code in his GitHub repository

    7) Publication of the Week - A Field‐tested Robotic Harvesting System for Iceberg Lettuce (2019).
    Wiley
    INFO: I found this paper through this article from the University of Cambridge. The system developed consists of an UR10 robot arm with custom end-effector, two cameras and a non-actuated mobile platform. The system is controlled using ROS and is using two convolutional neural networks (CNN): one for lettuce localization and the other for lettuce classification. I especially liked the notes about moving the system from the lab to the field and noticing a calibration is needed (it was achieved using Aruco markers). The average cycle time achieved by the team during trials was 31.7s, mainly due to the end-effector weight of 8 kg.

    Careers

    1) Locus Robotics (Wilmington, MA, US) - Software Engineer - Systems.
    INFO: Locus Robotics’ innovative autonomous mobile robots make it easy to optimize your warehouse operation, respond to e-commerce volume growth and seasonal peaks while giving you control over your labor costs.

    2) Iron Ox (San Carlos, CA, US) - Software Architect.
    INFO: Iron Ox is reimagining the modern farm, utilizing robotics and AI to grow fresh, consistent, and responsibly farmed produce for everyone. Our experienced team of growers, plant scientists, engineers, and innovators are passionate about deeply understanding and developing this new wave of technology to feed an ever-growing population.

  • Weekly Robotics #47

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    Last Sunday we’ve reached 1000 e-mail subscribers! This is a major milestone for Weekly Robotics and I’m really grateful for getting this far thanks to you! Starting in 2 weeks (after issue #49) I’ll be heading out for a 3 week holiday, therefore Weekly Robotics will enter ‘minimum support mode’. You will still get your weekly dose of interesting robotics news and projects but with minimal redaction. And if you happen to be in Norway and want to meet and talk robotics, feel free to contact me. Coffee is on me!

    1) Reinforce Your 3D Prints with Steel.
    YouTube
    INFO: This video by Brauns CNC explores a technique of reinforcing 3D prints with steel wire. After reinforcement the author performs a destructive tensile testing on 3 types of barts that were printed in pure plastic and reinforced with steel and observing an increase in strength in the range of 55.6% to 107.5%.

    2) Jumping Space Robot ‘Flies’ Like a Spacecraft.
    ESA
    INFO: If you need to move around low gravity environment such as moon, why not try jumping? SpaceBok is the quadruped robot designed by a Swiss student team from ETH Zurich and Zhaw Zurich. The robot is using dynamic walking that allows gaits with full flight phases to get around low gravity environments. The robot is using a reaction wheel to stabilize itself in the air (you can see it in action in the video featured in the article). I really liked the test setup with a free floating platform and the robot mounted sideways to it!

    3) Robot-ants that Can Jump, Communicate and Work Together.
    EPFL
    INFO: Researchers at EPFL Professor Jamie Paik’s Laboratory had created tiny robots that weigh only 10 grams and are based on PCBs that can be folded to form a 3D shape of the robot and can accommodate all the robot components. The robots can move using shape-memory alloy actuators. For more information about the folding robots you might want to check out this TED talk in which Jamie paik talks about the robots her group is working on (origami haptic feedback devices look interesting).

    4) ROS 2 Command Line Interface.
    Ubuntu
    INFO: This short post by Jeremie Deray goes into how the command line interface tools had changed between ROS and ROS2 and specifies some of the ones that were freshly contributed by Ubuntu engineers.

    5) OpenPnP - Open Source SMT Pick and Place System.
    OpenPnP
    INFO: OpenPnp is a ready to run software for pick and place machines. The software supports various designs and is in active development. I found this project on YouTube utilizing OpenPnP very satisfactory to watch.

    6) Developing Semi-automatic Nuclear Decommissioning Robots.
    Lancaster University
    INFO: Engineers from Lancaster University are building a semi-autonomous robot for handling nuclear waste. The robot is a mobile platform with two manipulators capable of grasping and cutting metal parts. The semi-autonomy of the robot allows the operator to select parts the robot should perform tasks on. For more information about the system you can check the Open Access publication about it.

    7) Publication of the Week - Dragonfly: A Rotorcraft Lander Concept for Scientific Exploration at Titan (2018).
    jhuapl.edu
    INFO: As promised in the previous issue here is a publication that introduces Dragonfly multirotor destined for Titan. Interestingly the first aircraft suggested for similar mission was a helicopter, however the idea was dropped due to the mechanical complexity of single rotor aircrafts. Even though the aircraft would perform just fine in a 4-rotor setup the 80rotor in coaxial configuration was chosen for redundancy. I really enjoyed the insights about the energy required to send science data to earth: “Missions with high-gain antennas (HGAs) empiri-cally require about 5 mJ per bit per astronomical unit”.

    1) Humble Book Bundle: Programmable Boards by Make Community.
    HumbleBundle
    INFO: In this Humble Book Bundle you can grab various books related to single board computers, microcontrollers, sensors and even FPGAs. If you purchase this bundle through the above affiliated link you can choose to support Weekly Robotics.

    Careers

    1) Magazino (Munich, Germany) - Robot Deployment Engineer.
    INFO: Magazino develops and builds intelligent, mobile robots for intralogistics.

    2) ARM (Cambridge, UK) - Embedded Software Engineer - Automotive and Safety.
    INFO: The Arm Open Source Software group enables partners to build software on Arm IP-based systems. We develop and contribute to open source software (OSS) projects, providing essential reference implementations and optimisations to key software system components, and also validated software stacks for Arm IP-based reference platforms used in intelligent devices.

  • Weekly Robotics #46

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    Weekly Robotics Q2 2019 report is available! The short story is the newsletter is growing and as I’m writing this we are at 993 e-mail subscribers. Enjoy the read!

    1) NASA’s Dragonfly Will Fly Around Titan Looking for Origins, Signs of Life .
    NASA
    INFO: In 2026 NASA will launch Dragonfly mission and it will take the mission 8 years to arrive on Titan. Dragonfly will be the first multirotor flown by NASA on an extraterrestrial body. The aircraft itself will be a coaxial octorotor (it has 4 arms, each hosting 2 propellers), will weigh 450 kg (990 lbs) and will be powered by RTG (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator). The baseline mission is planned to last 2.7 years. We will cover Dragonfly in detail in the publication of the week section of the issue #47.

    2) RoboCup 2019.
    RoboCup
    INFO: Today RoboCup 2019 is wrapping up (next time we will inform you way in advance!). RoboCup is an annual robotics competition with various leagues that’s mostly known from the Robot Soccer League. The official goal of RoboCup project is: “By the middle of the 21st century, a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players shall win a soccer game, complying with the official rules of FIFA, against the winner of the most recent World Cup”. Although the event is most likely finished now you can still view the official livestreams and as pointed out by Lutz the streams provided by Nao Devils seem to be particularly good.

    3) ‘Boaty McBoatface’ shows promising future of AUVs.
    The Robot Report
    INFO: Boaty McBoatface (if you’ve missed the origin of it’s name then Wikipedia has you covered) traversed more than 180 km (112 mi) autonomously at depths of up to 4 km (2.5 mi). During the mission Boaty measured the temperature, saltiness and turbulence of the water at the bottom of the ocean in order to map better the effects of global warming on the rise of sea levels. You can read about the mission on the University of Southampton website. We also recommend reading the article on Robot Report as it gives quite a nice overview of the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle market.

    4) Px4 Developers Summit Presentations.
    YouTube
    INFO: The above YouTube playlist contains the presentations from Px4 (an open source flight control software) that took place on June 20-21st in Zurich, Switzerland.

    5) First-ever Successful Mind-controlled Robotic Arm Without Brain Implants.
    ScienceDaily
    INFO: Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University managed to use a non-invasive brain-computer interface (BCI) to allow humans to make a robot arm follow a cursor on a screen. The team plans to conduct clinical trials in the near future. You can see the video of the robot in action on YouTube.

    6) Study: Social Robots Can Benefit Hospitalized Children.
    MIT
    INFO: Researchers from MIT Media Lab, Boston Children’s Hospital and Northeastern University did a study on the effects of using Huggable, an animatronic teddy bear with hospitalized children. During the trials the robot was remotely operated by a specialist that could move Huggable’s body actions, gaze and facial expressions as well as speak to the microphone to have their voice transformed into the bear’s voice. In the future the researchers hope to make the robot autonomous.

    7) Cutting the Power Cord For the First Untethered Flight.
    Wyss Institute
    Robobee, a 259 miligram flapping wing robot that uses 120 miliwatts of power, performed the first untethered flight. The robot is currently powered with solar cells (each weighting 10 mg).

    8) Publication of the Week - Engineering a Safer World: Systems Thinking Applied to Safety (2011).
    MIT Press
    INFO: This Open Access book by Nancy G. Leveson is offers a view on new approaches to safety engineering. The book contains many examples of safety failures and although I still didn’t finish it I can highly recommend it. Since the book is open access you can download it as a PDF or buy it from any source listed on the site.

    Big thanks to Lutz for sending us the information about RoboCup! If you know of something that we should cover then feel free to contact Mat.

    1) ROS Web Tutorial Part 2 - Working With Cameras.
    msadowski.github.io
    INFO: In this intermediate tutorial I’m showing how to use ROS with UVC enabled USB cameras and a computer running Ubuntu. There will be one more tutorial in the series about using web video server.

    Careers

    1) University of Liverpool / Department of Computer Science (Daresbury, UK) - Robotics & AI Software Development Engineer.
    INFO: The University of Liverpool is one of the UK’s leading research universities with a reputation nationally and internationally for high quality research.

    2) Veo Robotics (Waltham, MA, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Veo Robotics is transforming manufacturing with products that incorporate advanced computer vision, 3D sensing, and AI. Our first product lets high-performance industrial robots work collaboratively with people to enable much more flexible, productive, and efficient manufacturing workcells.