Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [7/11]

  • Robotics in 2018

    Welcome to the special edition of Weekly Robotics in which we cover what we think are the most important news and projects of 2018. We hope that you’ll enjoy this edition as much as every other issue of Weekly Robotics and we would also like to use this occasion to wish a happy new year to all our readers.

    Open Source Projects

    1) NASA’s JPL Open Source Rover project.
    INFO: This year we came across a fully documented Open Source Rover project from NASA that we mentioned in the issue #1. It’s also worth mentioning Sawppy rover which is a Rover inspired by the NASA’s project that is more cost-effective.

    2) Ikarus electric “rocket”.
    INFO: One of the projects we liked the most this year is this ducted fan motor that was featured in the issue #4. The build log video featured with the project was especially fascinating and a good learning resource.

    3) Nybble quadruped cat.
    INFO: Nybble is a quadruped cat project that was announced in October 2018. It could be a perfect first quadruped robot project.

    4) Blimpduino 2.
    JJ Robots
    INFO: Another project that caught our attention is a low cost open source blimp flight controller.

    5) Dexter - an open source 3D printed robot arm.
    INFO: The project that won a Hackaday 2018 prize. The robot has 5 degrees of freedom (DOF) with a maximum payload capacity of 1kg. The repeatability of the robot is said to be 0.05mm.

    Soft Robotics

    6) Jellyfish.
    INFO: This year we enjoyed learning about this Soft Robotics Jellyfish project. The above Hackaday post has you covered when it comes to follow up links with technical information and build logs.

    7) Soft Robotics Toolkit.
    Soft Robotics Toolkit
    INFO: In the issue #8 we discovered a Soft Robotics Toolkit, a collection of free resources for design, fabrication, modeling, characterization, and control of soft robotic devices.

    8) Robotic skin.
    The Robot Report
    INFO: In September we learned about this project allowing to turn soft objects into robots.

    Robotics showmandship

    9) Robotics stunt man.
    INFO: In July we Disney shared information on robotics stunt man it has been working on.

    10) Atlas doing parkour.
    Boston Dynamics
    INFO: In October Boston Dynamics released the video of it’s bipedal robot Atlas doing Parkour that wen viral.

    11) Dancing Spot Mini.
    Boston Dynamics
    INFO: Another viral video that we’ve seen a week later after Atlas Parkour was of Spot Mini dancing to Uptown Funk.


    12) TU Delft Insect Robot.
    TU Delft
    INFO: TU Delft researchers from MAVLab created a flapping-wing robot inspired by fruit flies

    13) Ion Drive fixed wing UAV.
    Ars Technica
    INFO: In November this year MIT Researchers announced the first flights with a fixed wing UAV powered by ionic wind.

    14) Airbus Zephyr high altitude flight.
    INFO: In August Airbus Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo Satellite completed it’s record flight in which it staid in the air for almost 26 days.


    15) ROS on Windows.
    INFO: on 1st of October Microsoft announced an experimental release of ROS for Windows.

    16) AWS Robomaker.
    INFO: In November Amazon announced AWS Robomaker - a service for development, test and deployment of robot software. The service is based on ROS Kinetic and some sources report that it will support ROS 2 in the near future.

    17) ROSCON 2018.
    INFO: The ROSCON 2018 took place in September 2018. The linked page has links to all the talks from this event. It’s worth noting the amount of talks related to ROS 2.


    18) Gatwick Airport disruption due to Drone sighting.
    sUAS News
    INFO: A very unfortunate event for the Drone industry as a whole. Sources report that the disruption affected 1000 flights and over 140,000 passengers. Although it’s still too early to say what the incident will result in it’s almost certain that it will affect the drone industry in one way or another.

    19) Uber self-driving crash resulting in fatality.
    INFO: An unfortunate event from March this year, where an Uber self-driving car struck and killed a Woman in Tempe, Arizona. The linked source is a preliminary report from NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board).

    20) Fatal Tesla Autopilot crash.
    INFO: On 23rd of March 2018 a Tesla Model X, reportedly in Autopilot mode, crashed into a concrete barrier killing the driver.


    21) Hayabusa Rovers asteroid hopping.
    INFO: In October this year two Rovers were deployed onto the surface of Ryugu comet. We included a link covering the technical information about those hopping rovers in the issue #7.

    22) NASA Hubble telescope gyro recovery.
    INFO: In October NASA successfully recovered Hubble from a Gyro failure. The above page contains a good amount of technical details about the recovery process.

    23) Copenhagen Suborbitals.
    Copenhagen Suborbitals
    INFO: This year we learned about Copenhagen Suborbitals, the amateur manned space program staffed by volunteers.

    24) Parker Solar Probe.
    INFO: On 12th of August a Parker Solar Probe was launched. The goal of the mission is to get as close as 3.8 million km from the sun surface, probing it’s atmosphere.


    25) Rethink robotics close down.
    The Robot Report
    INFO: In the beginning of October we learned about Rethink Robotics closing down after rising $150M.

    26) Alphabet to pull the plug on bipedal robot development.
    INFO: In November we learned about Alphabet dissolving Schaft, a developer of bipedal robots that Google acquired in 2013.

    27) The hunt for Robot Unicorns.
    INFO: This article from September was very informative source of information about Robotics from the perspective of Venture-Capital.

    28) 10 Most Funded Robotics Companies of 2018
    The Robot Report
    INFO: The above article from Robot Report lists Robotics companies that raised the most funding in 2018.

    The publications we covered this year

  • Weekly Robotics #19

    1) Drone X Challenge 2020.
    INFO: Kryptolabs is organizing a $1.5M drone challenge aimed at boosting drone related R&D and innovation. The challenge two main categories are Fixed Wing Drones and Multirotors. The application deadline is 10th of January 2019.

    2) Webots goes open source.
    INFO: Webots, a robot development environment for modeling, programming and simulating robots goes open source. The project is released under Apache 2.0 licence. For more information please see the Webots project repository.

    3) HAMR-E quadruped sticky feet robot.
    Wyss Institute
    INFO: Researchers at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have created a micro robot capable of climbing on vertical and upside-down conductive surfaces. The robot weights 1.68 grams, while the electroadhesive footpads can generate shear forces of 5.56 grams and normal forces of 6.20 grams.

    4) Robot makes world-first baby coral delivery to Great Barrier Reef.
    INFO: Southern Cross University’s Professor Peter Harrison and QUT’s Professor Matthew Dunbabin performed a trial of delivery of coral larvae in efforts of repopulating parts of the Great Bareer Reef. The researchers are using an Underwater Vehicle capable of delivering up to 100,000 larvae in a single mission.

    5) Open Mission Control Technologies.
    INFO: Via Github: Open MCT (Open Mission Control Technologies) is a next-generation mission control framework for visualization of data on desktop and mobile devices. It is developed at NASA’s Ames Research Center, and is being used by NASA for data analysis of spacecraft missions, as well as planning and operation of experimental rover systems.

    6) ESA’s winning ideas for new space transport services.
    INFO: Back in the Weekly Robotics issue 2 we mentioned European Space Agency’s competition for new space transport ideas. The results are in! The linked article describes the three winning ideas/projects. The authors of the ideas will travel to French Guiana to experience a space launch.

    7) Publication of the week - The Foldable Drone: A Morphing Quadrotor that can Squeeze and Fly (2018).
    Robotics and Perception Group
    INFO: This project by researchers from Robotics and Perception Group from University of Zurich gathered quite some attention lately (1 2). The quadrocopter described in the paper is based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon Flight flight controller. The motor frame described in this paper has each of the arms mounted on a servo motor (HiTech HS-5070MH) and offset vertically so that adjacent propellers do not collide. Folding the arms on the quadrotor impacts CoG (Center of Gravity) location, inertial tensor of the platform and thrust mapping. The multirotor can sustain a stable flight thanks to real-time adaptive control scheme. We highly recommend watching the videos linked in the paper and a radar diagram showing how different configurations affect pitch/roll acceleration, flight time and robot’s dimensions.


    0) Would you like to advertise an open position in a robotics related company?
    Weekly Robotics
    INFO: If you would like us to include your open position in the hiring section please feel free to send us an e-mail.

    1) Fraunhofer IPA (Stuttgart, Germany) - Research Associate.
    INFO: The department “Robot and Assistive Systems” at Fraunhofer IPA develops mobile service robots for the numerous applications: from small robots for the home and garden to transport assistants, inspection, and cleaning robots for the industry, or personal robots that attend and support people in their everyday lives.

    2) Teqram (Zwolle, Netherlands) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Teqram creates solutions for vision guided robotics.

    3) Space Applications Services (Sint-Stevens-Woluwe, Belgium) - Robotics Software Engineer.
    Space Applications Services
    INFO: Space Applications Services aim is to research and develop innovative systems, solutions and products and provide services to the aerospace, security markets & related industries.

    4) Wingtra (Zurich, Switzerland) - Robotics Software Developer.
    INFO: Wingtra is creating VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) drones.

  • Weekly Robotics #18

    1) DroneClash 2019 team registration is open.
    INFO: DroneClash is an drone competition where the teams have to take out other team’s drones. The team registration will be open until 15th of January 2019 and the event will take place on 16th of March 2019. Want to have an idea how the vent looks like? Check out this DroneClash 2018 video.

    2) New Class of Metamaterials Changes Physical Properties in Seconds.
    INFO: The above article describes a work being carried out by researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The researchers are creating structures that can change stifness in response to magnetic field. To achieve that a 3d printed mechanical metamaterial with hollow beam is created and a magnetorheological (MR) fluid that reacts to magnetic field is injected into the beams.

    3) Industrial exoskeletons: new systems, improved technologies, increasing adoption.
    The Robot Report
    INFO: This article from The Robot Report is a summary of state of exoskeletons in the industry. The article covers an introduction to exoskeletons, adoption programmes and enabling technologies.

    4) Centralized Collaborative Monocular SLAM for Robotic Teams.
    INFO: ETH Zurich released a framework that acts as a centralized SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation And Mapping) for robot teams. The project is open source and can be accessed on (GitHub)[https://github.com/VIS4ROB-lab/ccm_slam].

    5) ROS 2 Crystal Clemmys has been released.
    ROS discourse
    INFO: The 3rd official release of ROS 2 is now live. The release will be officially supported until December 2019.

    6) Keeping Cool: Robotic Refueling Mission 3.
    INFO: The Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3) will will test new methods for transferring and storing cryogenic fluids like liquid methane in space. Creating new methods for transferring and stroing fuels in space could be used for extending the life of satellites. The RRM3 module will demonstrate the first ever transfer of cryogenic propellant in orbit and test a number of robotics tools and vision systems needed for satellite refueling missions.

    7) Publication of the week - AI Now (2018).
    AI Now Institute
    INFO: This annual report from AI Now institute discusses the social impact of Artificial Intelligence in such areas as surveillance (including facial and emotion recognition), automated decision systems, experimenting on society (the article covers the Uber and Tesla autopilot accidents). We’ve found the report to be very insightful, especially on socio-economic issues described (the report cites 230 sources). “Accounting for Hidden Labor in AI Systems” is the chapter that stood out for us as it is, among other things, discussing the work of labeling training data and reviewing flagged content by often poorly compensated workers.


    0) Would you like to advertise an open position in a robotics related company?
    INFO: If you would like us to include your open position in the hiring section please feel free to send us an e-mail.

    1) Aeolus Robotics (Various Countries and remote) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Aeolus Robotics was founded to bring the first generation of household robot assistants into homes.

    2) Greenzie (Atlanta, GA, US) - Robotics Software Developer.
    INFO: Greenzie’s mission is to free humans from manual labor. We’re starting with the hardest tasks first - highly repetitive outdoor work in the green industry: lawn maintenance, turf mowing, landscaping.

  • Weekly Robotics #17

    1) Bend-It: Design and Fabrication of Kinetic Wire Characters.
    INFO: Disney Research has created a technique for producing kinetic wire characters using CNC bending machines. Researchers introduce spring-like templates in the wire so that the wire doesn’t experience plastic deformation.

    2) Why Doesn’t Amazon Deliver my Stuff via Drone? An Interview with Colin Snow on Drone Delivery.
    INFO: In this short interview Colin Snow of Skylogic Research talks about the challenges facing the concept of drone delivery.

    3) This Plant Is Driving Its Own Robot.
    INFO: Harpreet Sareen from MIT Media Lab is measuring signals from the plant and based on them drive the mobile robot base towards where plant “tells it to”.

    4) BehaviourTree.CPP.
    INFO: BehaviourTree.CPP is a C++ framework for creating Behaviour Trees which might serve as an alternative to Finite State Machine (FSM) for complex task planning. The github project contains a link to a video presenting the BehaviourTree.CPP in action. The project is open sourced under MIT licence.

    5) China prepares mission to land a rover-lander combination on moon’s far side.
    INFO: Chang’e 4 is a mission aiming to land on the dark side of the moon. The goal of the mission is to perform above and below surface exploration and possibly radio-astronomical studies. The mission launched on 7th of December and is expected to touch down on 3rd of January 2019.

    6) CIMON robot debuts at ISS.
    INFO: CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile CompanioN) is a robot assistant that was deployed to International Space Station. The robot was designed by DLR, Airbus and IBM and is using ISS WiFi and transmits the voice commands to Earth so that they can be processed by Watson, an IBM natural-language processing computer.

    7) Publication of the week - Two Years of Visual Odometry on the Mars Exploration Rovers (2006).
    INFO: Did you know that Martian rovers Spirit and Opportunity had were equipped with 45 deg Field Of View (FOV) cameras producing 256x256 pixel stereo images for visual odometry providing a rover pose estimation in 6 degrees of freedom? According to the article the Visual Odometry started as an “extra credit” functionality but ended up being a critical safety system. In the first 10.7 km driven by the rovers the visual odometry was used for over 14% of navigation, mainly on steep terrain. The disadvantage that came with the visual odometry on those rovers is that it slowed down the robots by the order of magnitude, since the calculations were run on a 20 MHz CPU.


    0) Would you like to advertise an open position in a robotics related company?
    INFO: If you would like us to include your open position in the hiring section please feel free to send us an e-mail.