Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [5/27]

  • Weekly Robotics #84

    Issue 84

    I’m seeing a reduced rate of robotics news in my feed by about ~60%, which is understandable given the current COVID-19 situation in the world. Luckily I have a backlog of information to share with you, so we should be good for the next 2-3 weeks. Stay Safe! The most clicked last week was the open source ventilator with 8.8% opens.

    1) The End of Starsky Robotics.
    INFO: A very insightful article by Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, a CEO of Starsky Robotics, on the difficulties of scaling AI systems, difficulties in raising capital for safety oriented features and eventually having to close the company. I’ve definitely learned something from this article and I hope the whole team moved on and will keep doing great things!

    2) Writing a New Costmap2d Plugin.
    INFO: In the last issue we’ve learned about Navigation2 for ROS2 through the paper featured in the publication of the week section. Extending upon that this tutorial shows how to implement a custom costmap plugin for this navigation framework.

    3) Open Source Turtle Robot (OSTR).
    INFO: This instructable contains instructions on creating a turtlebot with a marker holder (did you ever play with logo. This project is the most thorough instructable I’ve ever seen. I was surprised that it even covered odometry calibration.

    4) RB-0.
    INFO: While we are on the topic of DIY 3D printed robots: RB-0 is a hobby-sized rover using the same method of suspension as NASA rovers. The brains of this rover is a Jetson Nano and in the repository you will find some ipython notebooks with some additional instructions and source code.

    5) Ultra-Precise, Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Hand for Amputees via RPNI Neural Interface.
    YouTube (University of Michigan Engineering)
    INFO: Regenerative Peripheral Nerve Interface (RPNI) is a small graft of muscle surgically attached to the end of severed nerves in an amputee’s arm in order to amplify the readable signal. I have to say that the results shown in the video seem very promising!

    6) A3 Special Report: How Robots and Automation are Fighting Covid-19.
    INFO: In this report Keith Shaw showcases some robotics companies that are aiding in the fight with COVID-19. If you know of anything happening in this space robotics wise that is worth highlighting feel free to let me know!

    7) First look under Thwaites Glacier and Kamb Ice Stream.
    Georgia Tech
    INFO: “An international team including scientists from Georgia Tech captured new images and first-of-its-kind data from deep beneath an Antarctic glacier, which will help scientists to better understand the impact of one of Antarctica’s fastest changing regions and its impact on future sea level rise”. In this mission the team was using ICEFIN, a 130 kg submarine capable of getting to a depth of 1 km and covering a range of 3.5 km.

    Job Seekers

    Last week I’ve started this job seekers section for a limited period of time. If you are a roboticist looking for work in the pandemic 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 in this section.

    Name: Khaled Hammad Mohamed
    Location: Cairo, Egypt. Willing to Relocate
    Skills: Python, C++, ROS , KRL, URDF, Robotics, Autonomous Systems, AGV
    Profile: I am a Robotics Engineer who is A multidisciplinary engineer with expertise in designing and building intelligent robotic systems. knowledge in ROS, SLAM and Embedded system Design, Looking for a company which is interested in developing Robotics solutions or Autonomous Systems
    Social Profiles: LinkedIn
    Email: khaledgabr77@gmail.com

    Name: Andres Torres Garcia
    Location: Merced, CA, USA. Willing to relocate
    Skills: Python, Linux, MATLAB, C/C++11, ROS, GIT, Embedded Systems
    Profile: I’m a Roboticist working on Mobile Robots, Localization and Robot Motion Planning. Currently working on an Autonomous Ground Vehicle(AGV) for Agriculture. Also, contributing to an open-source AGV for agriculture named Gribot
    Social Profiles: LinkedIn
    Email: andrestoga@gmail.com

    Name: Ignat Georgiev
    Location: Edinburgh, UK. Willing to relocate
    Skills: motion control, machine learning, C/C++, ROS, Python, CUDA, PyTorch, Tensorflow, git, Linux, robotics simulators
    Profile: I am an enthusiastic and hard-working student set to graduate from my Master’s this summer. I am interested in the intersection between autonomous robots and AI which led me to establish a student team at my university which is building an autonomous racecar. From that I have gained practical experience in object detection, localisation, SLAM, path planning and motion control
    Social Profiles: LinkedIn, Website
    Email: ignat.m.georgiev@gmail.com


    1) Join the AI-ROBOTICS vs COVID-19 initiative of the European AI Alliance.
    INFO: The European Commission launches an initiative to collect ideas about deployable Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics solutions as well as information on other initiatives that could help face the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

  • Weekly Robotics #83

    Issue 83

    Two of the WR readers had mentioned the Open Source Ventilator Project - a device that might come useful for COVID-19 patients that are needing intensive care, especially if we run out of medically certified devices. I think the problem is incredibly difficult, therefore if you have experience in working on medical devices I’m sure your help would be appreciated. If you would like to get involved I think this Hackaday post might be a good entry for a discussion with other DIYers.

    On a related note the virus is causing some companies to close. If you find yourself looking for work because of the virus, write me an e-mail. For the next couple of weeks I’ll be hosting a Job Seekers section - a place for you to share your profile and hopefully help you find the next job. The most clicked last week was the Open TOF LiDAR with 12.4% opens.

    1) This Drone Can Play Dodgeball – And Win.
    INFO: The Researchers from the Robotics and Perception Group at the University of Zurich keep improving their dynamic obstacle avoidance using event cameras. This work looks like a follow up from the work I featured in the issue #39 titled Event Camera Helps Drone Dodge Thrown Objects.

    2) Drone Obstacle Avoidance in 2003: 264 Pixels and 8-Bit Processors.
    DIY Drones
    INFO: Since we are on the topic of obstacle avoidance: here is an interesting write up on implementing obstacle avoidance in 2003 by Geoffrey L. Barrows.

    3) LIBRE-dataset.
    Nagoya University
    INFO: Researchers at Nagoya University had created a dataset comparing 12 multi-channel LiDARS from Velodyne, Hesai, Ouster, RoboSense and LeiShen across various scenarios (static, moving vehicle) and conditions (fog, rain, strong light). The dataset also analyses the interference when running multiple LiDARS at the same time. For more information about this dataset you can see this publication.

    4) Robotics Expert Breaks Down Robot Scenes From Film & TV.
    YouTube (Wired)
    INFO: In this video Chris Atkeson, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, breaks down clips from movies and TV about AI and Robotics. Although you might know most of these things already I find this video to be a good watch, I especially liked the Chernobyl robot and radiation impact that you can see towards the end of the video.

    5) rex-gym.
    INFO: This repository contains OpenAI Gym environments for SpotMicro, an open source quadruped robot that was first published on ThingiVerse and then continued development was picked up by other developers and is hosted on this website.

    6) Autonomous Solar Powered Rover.
    YouTube (rctestflight)
    INFO: This is the episode 1 of the vlog on building the solar powered rover. The rover autopilot stack used in this project is ArduRover.

    7) Publication of the Week - The Marathon 2: A Navigation System (2020).
    INFO: This paper presents Navigation2, a ROS2 library for, you’ve guessed it, navigation! Navigation2 is built upon BehaviorTree.CPP making it very flexible. Since behavior trees are defined in xml you can easily change the behaviour at run time. I’m really excited to see how this this software stack will evolve, especially that I’ll be using it a lot

    1) SwitchBlox - The Open Source 5-Port Ethernet Switch for Robots and Drones.
    INFO: SwitchBlox is a small, open source Ethernet switch with five 100/100M ports designed for size constrained and tough environments. With a size of 44.5mm (1.75 inches) by 44.5mm (1.75 inches), SwitchBlox is the smallest network switch in the world, making it perfect for robots, drones or any space limited network application.

    2) Humble Book Bundle: Coding Starter Kit by No Starch Press.
    Humble Bundle
    INFO: Ready, set, code! Designed for kids, this bundle of ebooks is the perfect first step for anyone ready to jump into the world of coding! As usual with Humble Bundles featured in this newsletter you can choose to support Weekly Robotics at checkout.

    Job Seekers

    Name: Shantanu Wadnerkar
    Location: Davis, CA, USA. Willing to relocate within USA
    Skills: Python, Linux, MATLAB/Simulink, C++, ROS, numpy, matplotlib, openai-gym
    Profile: I’m a Robotics Engineer working with a myriad of sensors both in simulation and hands-on. Currently working on Baxter research robotic arm with Intel 3D camera. Also, contributing to an open-source self-driving vehicle simulator
    Social Profiles: LinkedIn
    Email: smwadnerkar5@gmail.com

    Name: Gasser Abdelnasser Ahmed
    Location: Cairo, Egypt. Willing to Relocate
    Skills: SolidWorks, Matlab, Simulink, Python, C, ROS ,Control, Robotics, Autonomous Systems
    Profile: I am a Robotics Engineer who is obsessed with Autonomous Systems, Robotics and Control,Looking for a company which is interested in developing Robotics solutions or Autonomous Systems
    Social Profiles: LinkedIn
    Email: gasser_nasser@yahoo.com

  • Weekly Robotics #82

    Issue 82

    Last week I spent 30 minutes watching PaskMakes create a ‘bladeless fan’ from scrap wood. I don’t know what it is about woodworking videos but I find them very satisfying to watch lately. The most clicked link last week was the RDBOX repository with 15.9% opens.

    1) Swarm of Robots Forms Complex Shapes Without Centralized Control.
    IEEE Spectrum
    INFO: Last week I’ve posted a video of these swarm robots in action. If you would like to learn more about them then this article might be a good start!

    2) OpenTOFLidar.
    INFO: This GitHub project contains information about an open source LiDAR that costs around ~114$ in parts to make. According to the information in the repository the scan rate of this sensor is around 15Hz, with a maximum distance of 25m and a resolution of ~1%. For more information about this project you can see this Google translated article or this YouTube video.

    3) Socially Assistive Robot Helps Children with Autism Learn.
    USC Viterbi
    INFO: In this study children on an autism spectrum were given kiwi - a socially assistive robot that can study the child’s interest in completing a task. In this study the Researchers have used reinforced learning and tracked head pose, eye gaze, audio pitch and frequency and performance on the task. You can see the video about the study on YouTube.

    4) 207: I Love My Robot Monkey Head (Repeat).
    INFO: Speaking of social robots - in this episode of Embedded.fm the hosts interview Ayanna Howard, a roboticist and the School Chair for Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology. I found the episode very insightful on robot kinematics, Robot Operating System (ROS), uncanny robots, human trust and safety and many other topics.

    5) interbotix_puppet_control.
    INFO: In a 78th issue I’ve featured Dynamixel Position Feedback Demo thanks to Allan. The above repository contains a ROS node that should allow you to pull off something similar with Interbotix robot arms.

    6) Google Summer of Code.
    INFO: Since last year I’ve shared information about GSoC I’ve felt obliged to report on the 2020 edition too. This year students can work on the following robotics and space related projects: AerospaceResearch.net, ArduPilot, JdeRobot, Libre Space Foundation, MoveIt, Open Source Robotics Foundation, OpenCV, Point Cloud Library, RoboComp. You can start applying to these projects starting from today!

    7) Publication of the Week - BADGR: An Autonomous Self-Supervised Learning-Based Navigation System (2020).
    INFO: BADGR (Berkeley AutonomousDriving Ground Robot) “is an end-to-end learning-based mobile robot navigation system that can be trained with self-supervised off-policy data gathered in real-world environments, without any simulation or human supervision”. The mobile platform used for this research is a Clearpath Jackal extended with 2 170 deg FoV RGB cameras, a 2D LiDAR and a compass. Using the trained model BADGR can predict the probability of the road bumpiness and collisions based on the information from the cameras. For more information about the project check out BADGR website.


    1) ANYbotics (Zurich, Switzerland) - VP Software Engineering.
    INFO: ANYbotics provides solutions for a new level of mobility and interaction capabilities for robots to step out of the factory floors. We develop the market for highly mobile legged robots operating in challenging environments.

    2) Kobi (Leuven, Belgium) - Various Positions.
    INFO: With our scalable AI robotics platform, we can convert almost any machine into an autonomous device!

  • Weekly Robotics #81

    Issue 81

    I’m looking to team up with companies creating hardware for robots (can be sensors, actuators, research platforms) for a grand Weekly Robotics project. If you know any company that could be interested I’d highly appreciate it if you could let me know. The most clicked last week was the /r/robotics link with a gif of tracked robot(?) with 18.7% opens.

    1) RDBOX.
    INFO: RDBOX is a standard IT infrastructure for ROS robots and IoT devices. If I understand it correctly this software should make it way easier for you to create a local network for robots and can even be used on robot swarms.

    2) Swarming Robots Avoid Collisions, Traffic Jams.
    YouTube (NorthwesternU)
    INFO: Speaking of swarm robots: Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a system with 100 swarm robots (1024 in simulation) that can perform a collision-free reconfiguration.

    3) Introducing: ARI ROS Simulator.
    PAL Robotics
    INFO: PAL Robotics have prepared a set of tutorial for simulating its ARI Social Robot with Gazebo/ROS. The tutorials on the ROS wiki seem interesting - I would love to go through the implementation of some of them.

    4) Late Nights, Cool Hacks, and More Stories From the DARPA SubT Urban Circuit.
    IEEE Spectrum
    INFO: SubT Urban Circuit wrapped up last week. The winner of this circuit was Team CoSTAR. The above IEEE Spectrum article describes the circuit, team preparation, last minute hacks and more. I’m looking forward to the Cave Circuit!

    5) Klein.
    INFO: This library is an implementation of 3D Projective Geometric Algebra. If you need to perform any geometric projections, distance calculations, translations and rotation of geometries then it might be useful for you. I’ve learned about this package thanks to Davide Faconti on Twitter.

    6) Testing the Realsense T265 Accuracy.
    INFO: On one occassion I’ve tested the Intel T265 tracking camera on a mobile robot, however I really lacked the ground truth information. In this blog post Jasper Brown shares the results of his experiments mounting the T265 on a UR5 robotic arm, which allowed him to have a ground truth. The results are indeed very good but as the author points out we have to remember that the robot performs a very smooth motion, which might not be a case for other platforms.

    7) Publication of the Week - 2020 Autonomous Vehicle Technology Report (2020).
    INFO: Wevolver had published a very in-depth report on the state of autonomous cars that covers all of the aspects of autonomous cars I can think of and more. The use case of Roborace Robocar is also interesting with the autonomous car speed record at 282.42 km/h (175.49 mph).


    1) ESA Startup Competition.
    INFO: “Collaboration between start-ups and the European Space Agency (ESA) can fast-track the development and introduction of breakthrough space technologies. That’s why ESA is calling for European start-ups to come forward and propose their game-changing space solutions to benefit from the know-how and support of ESA in their development”. The winning startups will win a mentoring package worth between 25,000 to 100,000 Euro. You can register to the competition until 15th of April.