Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [6/27]

  • Weekly Robotics #80

    Issue 80

    If you happen to have 22 seconds to spare check out this tracked robot (?) completing a track with an unexpected twist at the end. Pretty cool, right? After my ask on Twitter and LinkedIn last week the awesome Weekly Robotics repository is now at 117 stars! Many thanks to all of you who helped make this project more visible. The most clicked link last week was Ascento 2 video with 20.9% opens.

    1) Super Capacitor Rocket.
    YouTube (Tom Stanton)
    INFO: In this video Tom Stanton makes a rocket powered by Super Capacitors and a single motor-propeller combination. I really like the sound this rocket makes as it’s climbing up!

    2) Atmospheric Satellite.
    INFO: This repository contains an iPython notebook with the calculations of parameters for a solar plane with minimum wingspan that can indefinitely sustain flight.

    3) Mass Layoffs Reported after Starsky Robotics Fails to Find Buyer, Investors.
    Freight Waves
    INFO: “Autonomous trucking startup Starsky Robotics has laid off the majority of its engineers and office personnel after its fundraising efforts and attempts to find a buyer failed, a former executive says”.

    4) Project MELT: 3D Printer for Space.
    YouTube (ESA)
    INFO: This YouTube video showcases a 3D Printer that is said to be ready to print 3D parts in microgravity. You can find a bit more information on Project MELT on ESA website. According to this NASA page there was an operational 3D printer already tested on ISS in 2014 and according to an 2018 article from 3Dprint.com there is a commercially available 3D printing service on ISS operated by Made In Space.

    5) A Stress Test for Jellyfish.
    Wyss Institute
    INFO: Researchers had developed a soft robotics manipulator that can help capture very fragile jellyfish without harm and with minimizing stress in these animals. This soft robot is using a hydraulic pump to inflate the fingers with water to cause them to curl.

    6) Build A Rover, Send It To The Moon, Sell The Movie Rights: 30 Years of iRobot.
    INFO: I highly recommend this article to by Colin Angle, a CEO of iRobot, to all robotics entrepreneurs. I found the idea of “Asymmetric Strategic Partnership” an interesting approach to building a robotics company. I also like the story about the 14 failed business models that got iRobot to where they are today.

    7) Publication of the Week - Julia for Robotics: Simulation and Real-Time Control in a High-Level Programming Language (2019).
    INFO: Many thanks to Julius for forwarding me this article! This paper describes using Julia programming language to perform a simulation of Atlas and writing modules for low level real-time control and high level control. I found the insights on how the garbage collector affects the execution time in a language like Julia. Interestingly the group managed to execute the control loops in under 2ms with the controller running at 300Hz. You can find the project repository on GitHub.

    1) Humble Book Bundle: Jumpstart Your Maker Space by Make: Community.
    Humble Bundle
    INFO: Get a jumpstart on a bundle full of projects to make the most of all the technology in your life! Featuring projects for drones, 3D printing, Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and much more, this bundle allows you to make technology work the way you want it to. If you decide to buy this bundle you can choose to support Weekly Robotics, which will be highly appreciated as it will allow me to keep growing this project!


    1) Pro-Drone (Lisbon | Alentejo, Portugal) - Senior / C++ Developer.
    INFO: Pro-Drone is a tech start-up that is revolutionizing how assets are inspected worldwide by developing autonomous UAV inspection solutions. In fact, we are one of the front runners of the wind blade inspection industry, having inspected over 8500 blades in 8 countries, and growing.

    2) Applanix Corporation (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada ) - Software Engineer.
    INFO: Applanix is a world leader in providing navigation technology for airborne, land, and marine applications, and increasingly for autonomous operations. We are developing lidar, camera, and inertial-based navigation systems for the off-road autonomy market and seeking candidates to expand our R&D team.

    3) 6 River Systems (Waltham, MA. USA) - Various Positions.
    INFO: 6 River Systems is disrupting a hundred billion dollar industry with a new approach to warehouse automation. Founded in 2015, we have developed a solution built on proprietary AI, mobile robots and cloud-based enterprise software. Our solution is half the cost of traditional automation and 2-3x faster than manual, cart pick operations.

  • Weekly Robotics #79

    Issue 79

    Publication of the week was the most clicked link two weeks in a row now! Last week the blog post on Gears had 17.7% opens. I’m glad you enjoy publications featured in the blog, especially because I have a backlog of over 60 publications that I should get through at some point for this newsletter.

    1) Subterranean Challenge Urban Circuit.
    INFO: DARPA’s Subterranean challenge is on from 18th to 27th of February. In the above page you will find a link to the live stream. If you’d like to explore this challenge more then IEEE Spectrum editor Evan Ackerman has authored the following articles that might interest you: How Robotics Teams Prepared for DARPA’s SubT Challenge: Urban Circuit(there are lots of lessons learned in this particular one - I highly recommend it), DARPA’s Tim Chung Answers Our Questions About the SubT Challenge Urban Circuit, DARPA Subterranean Challenge: Urban Circuit Preview.

    2) This is Ascento 2.
    YouTube (aslteam)
    INFO: This teaser is the first time I’m seeing Ascento 2 robot, a project by ETH students. After watching it I’ll be really looking forward to ICRA 2020 papers, where I’m hoping to learn more about this robot.

    3) Getting a Grip: An Innovative Mechanical Controller Design for Robot-Assisted Surgery.
    Science Daily
    INFO: Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology are working on a new type of gripper for surgeons that’s meant to combine two methods of gripping: a “pinch grip” and a “power grip”. By combining the two the scientists are hoping to keep the advantages of two methods while eliminating all the disadvantages. If you’d like to learn more about this system then you can find a publication on Wiley.

    4) The Robot, The Dentist and the Pyramid: Ancient Egypt Documentary (2020) | Ancient Architects.
    YouTube (Ancient Architects)
    INFO: I’m only 10 minutes into this documentary about exploring a pyramid using a mobile robot but I can already tell I’m hooked! I think you might like this one too!

    5) Ultimate Electronics Book.
    INFO: In the above link you will find an open source book on electronics that is being written by Michael F. Robbins. Currently there are 2 chapters available with more coming soon. I’m really looking forward to seeing this book happen as a couple of years ago I struggled to find quality learning resources on electronics.

    6) Mars 2020 Rover: Curiosity’s Hi-Tech Twin Is Strapped For Science; Includes A Flying Drone.
    INFO: I like how this article covers some of the technical aspects of the Mars 2020 Rover. Before reading this article I wasn’t aware that the rover will actually store collected samples and I didn’t expect that the drone will use a Snapdragon processor. The planned launch window for this mission is from July 17th to August 5th 2020 and the landing is scheduled for 18th of February 2021. Can’t wait!

    7) Publication of the Week - A Practical Guide to Watchdogs for Embedded Systems (2020).
    INFO: Do we have any embedded software roboticists onboard? If yes, you might like this blog post from Interrupt on watchdogs with an example using FreeRTOS and an NRF52840 based development board.

    1) ROS 2 Introductory Course Online.
    ROS 2 New Features [video]
    INFO: ROS 2 New Features is a 3-hours course that is recommended for people that never worked with ROS 2, or even have a basic understanding of ROS 1, and want to start with this new version. You’ll be introduced to the outgoing features available in ROS 2. With simple and practical examples, it covers all of the new features, especially major features including distributed discovery, node lifecycle management, security, and more. You’ll learn how to make the best use of these features and how they improve and secure the way you use ROS and support modular systems. By the end of the course, you will understand the new features introduced in ROS 2 and will be able to apply them to your systems.

  • Weekly Robotics #78

    Issue 78

    One of the newsletters I’ve been subscribed to for a long time is The Prepared. One of the many things I like about that newsletter is that in each issue authors provide some statistics on the links that were most often viewed by the readers. I would like to do this too! The most clicked link last week was the publication of the week: “How do you Architect your Robots? State of the Practice and Guidelines for ROS-based Systems” with 14.2% opens.

    1) Dynamixel Position Feedback Demo.
    YouTube (trossenrobotics)
    INFO: Cool demonstrator of position feedback from Trossen Robotics showing how position feedback from servos in one robot arm can be used to mirror its movement in the second arm. Many thanks to Allan Scherger for sharing this video in ROS Agriculture Slack channel!

    2) 3D Printed Hands Are Giving Syrian Children a Second Chance.
    INFO: Here is another story on tech for good: Loai, a boy from Syria, lost his forearm in 2016 but thanks to the company called Smart Hand he was able to receive a 3D printed prosthetic arm. If you know other stories on how robotics or technology are used for good causes please let me know - I love reading about them.

    3) “Sensorized” Skin Helps Soft Robots Find Their Bearings.
    INFO: Last week I’ve covered MakeSense from DisneyResearch that embedded strain sensors into soft robots to reconstruct their deformation. The MIT team had taken a different approach in which they applied the strain sensors on the robot body. Which of the two methods do you prefer?

    4) NASA Begins Testing Next Moon Rover.
    IEEE Spectrum
    INFO: NASA is working on a VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) that’s meant to look for water ice on Moon’s south pole. In the video featured in the article you will see engineers performing tests on a simulated lunar regolith.

    5) Pinocchio - A Rigid Body Dynamics Library.
    INFO: Via GitHub readme file: “Pinocchio instantiates the state-of-the-art Rigid Body Algorithms for poly-articulated systems based on revisited Roy Featherstone’s algorithms. Besides, Pinocchio provides the analytical derivatives of the main Rigid-Body Algorithms like the Recursive Newton-Euler Algorithm or the Articulated-Body Algorithm”. As of right now pinocchio is one of the projects featured in my Awesome Weekly Robotics list.

    6) The Robot That Grips without Touching.
    INFO: Marcel Schuck from ETH Zurich are developing a manipulator that can pick up and manipulate objects using acoustic levitation.

    7) gazebo_model_destroyer_plugin.
    INFO: This is for those of you working with ROS: thanks to this plugin you can destroy your robots with ROS. This sounds like a tool that can make integration tests slightly more interesting.

    8) Publication of the Week - Gears (2020).
    INFO: If you are reading this newsletter chances are you already have a good knowledge of mechanics but I would still recommend checking out this blog post by Bartosz Ciechanowski. What I especially like about this piece are the interactive animations and a clear design of the website.

  • Weekly Robotics #77

    Issue 77

    1) John Deere: Farm Software with Ryan Bergman.
    SE Daily
    INFO: In this SE Daily podcast episode Ryan Bergman, a software engineer at John Deere, talks about software for farming equipment and a whole infrastructure involved. This podcast episode is highly software development focused and puts lots of attention on the cloud part of Robotics. Many thanks to Artur for letting me know about this episode!

    2) The Disengagement Myth.
    INFO: A very good article by Kyle Vogt, a Co-Founder of Cruise, a self driving company, on disengagements that occur when a user takes over control of an autonomous car. What I found ingenious in the article is reconstructing the events in which a disengagement occured in simulation to see how the car would behave if the driver would not take over control. I’ll be looking forward to reading more about Cruise’s approach to self-driving. Many thanks to Illia for forwarding this article to me!

    3) MakeSense: Automated Sensor Design for Proprioceptive Soft Robots.
    YouTube (DisneyResearchHub)
    INFO: In this video Disney Research proposes a computational method for augmenting soft robots with proprioceptive sensing capabilities drastically reducing the amount of soft strain sensors needed to correctly sense soft robot deformation.

    4) Gundam Robot Repository.
    INFO: Do you remember the Gundam Robot from the previous issue? It looks like the above repository should have everything you need to simulate this robot yourself.

    5) Nuro R2 Autonomous Delivery Vehicle Gets Green Light.
    The Robot Report
    INFO: “The Nuro R2 was granted an exemption by the U.S. Department of Transportation, allowing it to be tested on public roads without certain features of traditional, passenger-carrying vehicles”. Looking at the graphics included in the article this robot has all the sensors - we can find a LiDAR, multiple cameras creating 360 view around the robot, a thermal camera, radar and ultrasonic sensors.

    6) Reconfigurable Robot Can Climb Up Its Own Track.
    IEEE Spectrum
    INFO: This “robot track” is one of the most interesting mechanical concepts I’ve seen in a while. I recommend watching the video presenting the robot in action.

    7) Publication of the Week - How do you Architect your Robots? State of the Practice and Guidelines for ROS-based Systems (2020)(PDF).
    INFO: A very interesting publication for those of us using ROS that was shared by Ivano Malavolta on ROS Discourse. The paper contains some solid advice on developing ROS based systems.

    1) Terabee Launches Its New Teraranger Evo Mini.
    INFO: The smallest and lightest addition to the TeraRanger Evo sensor family provides versatile performance and value for the money! Optimized for indoor distance sensing, Evo Mini offers ranging capabilities from just 3 cm up to 3.3 m! Easily switch from single-pixel and multi-pixel modes to adapt to your sensing needs. Evo Mini features a robust ABS enclosure for increased protection. Also, benefit from Arduino & Raspberry Pi sample codes and free ROS packages to get your robotic projects up and running in no time!


    1) Saga Robotics (Lincoln, UK) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Saga Robotics are developing robotic solutions for soft fruit production, and are involved in several exciting projects world wide, including Norway, UK, and USA.

    2) Robust AI (Palo Alto, CA, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Robust AI is Building the world’s first industrial grade cognitive engine.