Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [9/18]
1) ROS Industrial (Melodic) Training Exercises.
INFO: This ReadTheDocs page from ROS Industrial contains what we would classify as intermediate to advanced exercises for ROS. Each set of exercises is accompanied by slides prepared by Southwest Research Institute.
2) The Hundred-Tonne Robots That Help Keep New Zealand Running.
INFO: In this video Tom Scott presents the 70 tonnes autonomous robots for moving ship containers that are being tested in New Zealand. According to the video the robots can stack containers with accuracy of couple of centimeters (which in itself can cause other problems as you can learn from the video). Quite interesting development is the local positioning system used by these robots.
3) Successful Demonstration of Breakthrough Blown-air Flight Technologies to Revolutionise Future Aircraft Design.
INFO: MAGMA is an UAV designed and developed by researchers at The University of Manchester in collaboration with engineers from BAE Systems. The article presents two falp-free fixed wing aircraft control methods. The demonstrators were: Wing Circulation Control: taking air from the aircraft engine and blowing it supersonically through narrow slots around a specially shaped wing tailing edge in order to control the aircraft and Fluidic Thrust Vectoring: controlling the aircraft by blowing air jets inside the nozzle to deflect the exhaust jet and generate a control force.
4) Seven Dreamers / Anki closes down.
The Robot Report/IEEE
INFO: The past week has been filled with bad news for those waiting for a rise of consumer robots. Seven Dreamers, a company working on the Laundroid laundry-folding robot close down. We were very surprised to learn that Anki (which we mentioned when we showcased vector_ros project one week ago) is also closing down due to failing to secure a new round of financing. The linked IEEE article raises a good point on what happens to customer’s robots if the cloud servers go down. This guest article by Guy Hoffman is an interesting analysis of failed social robot startups.
5) The Best Robots on Four Legs with Marc Raibert (Boston Dynamics).
INFO: In this video from TechCrunch Marc Raibert, CEO of Boston Dynamics, discusses the current state of Boston Dynamics and offers some interesting insights on development of robotics products. At 7:30 you can see how components of Spot Mini and the robots themselves are tested.
6) Hitachi Establishes the Corporate Venture Capital Fund to Support Startups as an Innovation Partner.
INFO: Hitachi is establishing Hitachi Ventures GmbH that will start on 1st of June and will start with $150M fund.
7) Publication of the week - NASA Investigative Summary: TaurusXLT8 and T9 Mission Failures (2019)(PDF).
INFO: Sapa Profiles, Inc. (SPI) provided NASA with faulty materials that ended up being a root cause of 2 launch failures and causing a loss of $700 million. The PDF file linked above is a summary of the investigation carried out by NASA.
1) Sense Photonics (Edinurgh, UK / Research Triangle, San Francisco US) - Various Positions.
INFO: Sense Photonics produces advanced LiDAR and 3D sensor solutions for the autonomous vehicle, UAV and industrial automation markets.
2) Enway (Berlin, Germany / Singapore, Singapore) - Various Positions.
INFO: We are building the technology for high precision autonomous service vehicles. Enabling cleaner and more liveable cities.
1) Laying the Ground for Robotic Strategies in Environmental Protection.
INFO: Researchers at the Wyss Institute have developed Romu, a robot designed to drive interlocking sheet piles into the ground to help stabilize soil. The robot is using linear actuators and a vibratory hammer to press the sheets into the ground.
2) Snake-inspired Robot Uses Kirigami for Swifter Slithering.
The Robot Report
INFO: Kirigami is a papercraft that uses cuts to change the properties of the material. By carefully choosing cuts in a shell the Scientists can ‘program’ the skin to deform in a desired sequence.
3) NASA’s Robonaut to Return to Space Station With Legs Attached.
INFO: Robonaut is currently being prepared to go back to ISS, this time with legs attached, that are key to the Robonaut Project research objectives. The above article contains an interview with Julia Badger who is the Robonaut Project Manager, we highly recommend going through it! If you happen to use ROS and Gazebo then you might be able to run the Robonaut 2 simulation by following this wiki.
4) Paris Firefighters Used This Remote-Controlled Robot to Extinguish the Notre Dame Blaze.
INFO: In the previous issue of Weekly Robotics we’ve mentioned the robots used during the Notre Dame fire. This articles from IEEE provides more details about the Colossus, a 500 kg (1100 lbs) firefighting robot. We were quite surprised to learn that the robot is capable of moving 1,000 kg (2200 lbs) of payload.
5) ROS Package for Anki Vector Home Robot.
INFO: Omri Ben-Bassat has created an unofficial ROS package for Anki Vector, a small wheeled home robot. The package is open source and is a wrapper around Vector SDK. It provides interfaces for the camera, velocity commands, animations, saying text etc.
6) Velodyne Lidar Partners with Nikon to Mass-produce Cheaper Lidar Sensors.
INFO: “Sendai Nikon Corporation, a Nikon subsidiary, will manufacture lidar sensors for Velodyne with plans to start mass production in the second half of 2019”. Hopefully the ramp up in production will result in cheaper multi-axis LiDARs on the market.
7) Publication of the week - Pseudo-LiDAR from Visual Depth Estimation:Bridging the Gap in 3D Object Detection for Autonomous Driving (2019).
INFO: We found the above paper cited in several articles (, ) that surfaced after Elon Musk made a statement about LiDARs being a fool’s errand during Tesla autonomy days earlier this week. We’ve decided to see ourselves what the paper says and if stereo cameras will beat LiDARs any time soon. The paper has been written by Cornell University Researchers. In the paper they propose an alternative method for representation of 3D information obtained from stereo cameras so that it resembles LiDAR data (pseudo-LiDAR) and therefore LiDAR based object detection algorithms can be applied to it. The experiment setup is based on the KITTI benchmark and there are two algorithms that Researchers evaluate: F-POINTNET-v1 and AVOD-FPN. Looking at the results table the chosen approach is a significant improvement over other camera based methods however at high Intersection over Union there is still a high gap between stereo based method described and Lidar + monocular camera based method. In case of Bird Eye View representation with AVOD algorithms and the IoU of 0.7 the researchers obtained a result of 74.9 (89.4 for LiDAR + mono camera) in Easy category and 49.0 (79.3 for LiDAR + mono camera) in Hard category.
1) Humble Book Bundle: Electronics + 3D Printing by Make.
INFO: This Humble Book bundle features 24 books from Make that are worth $401. In the bundle you will find books related to 3D printing, electronics, programming and even drones. If you purchase the bundle using the above affiliate link you can choose to support Weekly Robotics.
1) Moley (London, UK) - Various Positions.
INFO: Moley has created the world’s first robotic kitchen. Featuring an advanced, fully functional robot integrated into a beautifully designed, professional kitchen, it cooks with the skill and flair of a master chef. The prototype was premiered to widespread acclaim at Hanover Messe, the international robotics show.
2) Sonnet.ai (Seoul / Daegu, South Korea) - Senior Software Engineer, Autonomous Driving.
INFO: Sonnet.ai is a tech startup bringing artificial intelligence to autonomous vehicles and precision medicine. We founded sonnet.ai because we believe that artificial intelligence technology has the potential to save lives and transform our societies, and we think this is the right team to do it.
3) Barrios Technology (Houston, TX, US) - Software Developer.
INFO: Barrios Technology Ltd. is a woman-owned and operated small business headquartered in Houston, Texas. We provide a full spectrum of engineering, operations and related technology services in support of the aerospace community and have successfully supported NASA for 38 years.
1) NASA Launching Astrobee Robots to Space Station.
INFO: Astrobees are the robots that will soon float around the ISS. Each Astrobee is a cube with 30 cm (12 inch) side and is equipped with 6 cameras, touchscreen, speaker, microphone, signal lights, laser pointer and a built-in gripper. Among other things the robots will monitor radiation and air quality onboard the space station. The robots are controlled by pushing air through 12 adjustable nozzles and their software has been developed using ROS and can be found in the following GitHub repository.
2) The Drones and Robots that Helped Save Notre Dame.
INFO: We were quite bummed about the Notre Dame burning down but we hope that the robots deployed there brought at least some value by helping out the firefighters. The above article mentions the 2 DJI drones that were used (Mavic Pro and Matrice M210) in helping firefighters to see the intensity and spread of fire in real time and the 500 kg (1100 lbs) Colossus mobile tracked robot developed by Shark Robotics was deployed inside of the burning structure and was providing a constant stream of water to cool down the interior.
3) Robotic Refueling Mission 3 Update.
INFO: Back in Weekly Robotics #18 we covered the Robotic Refueling Mission 3 aiming to test new methods for transferring and storing cryogenic fluids like liquid methane in space and robotic tools and vision systems for satellite refueling. As we can read in the above update the coolers seem to have broken down making the module incapable of performing fuel storage and transfer, however the mission will continue operations with servicing and inspection tools.
4) Automate/ProMat 2019: 10 Takeaways for Robotics Developers.
The Robot Report
INFO: In this article by Eugene Demaitre from The Robot Report shares lots of insights on the commercial needs for industrial robots that he learned while attending Automate and ProMat 2019 exhibitions.
5) A Pet Robot, Just Like Boston Dynamics Makes.
INFO: This article presents Dizzy Wolf, a quadruped robot developed by Misha. As part of this project Misha designed and manufactured custom motors (some of them with built-in planetary gearbox) and a BLDC motor controller. You can learn more about the project on dizzy.ai.
6) RDP042: How ROS is Developed with ROS Platform Manager Tully Foote.
INFO: In this episode of ROS Developers Podcast Ricardo Tellez hosts Tully Foote who is a ROS platform manager at Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF). From the podcast episode we can learn how ROS distributions are created and how timelines follow Ubuntu release lifecycle. There are also some interesting thoughts on Gazebo simulators, how Python 3 is going to be used in the future and the last release of ROS.
7) Publication of the week - ROS-based implementation of BatSLAM (2016).
INFO: In this paper Researchers from the University of Antwerp describe their efforts of integrating BatSLAM into a ROS based system developed on top of Pioneer P3-DX mobile robot. The system is using biomimetic sonar sensor that perform echolocation and a Hokuyo laser rangefinder that is used for capturing the ground truth information. To create a BatSLAM solution the Researchers process the information from the sonar sensor to create 8-bit images that they later use with RatSLAM. The end goal for the researchers is to use this solution to create an autonomous wheelchair.
1) Blue Robotics (Torrance, CA, US or remote) - Software Developer.
INFO: Blue Robotics specializes in developing, manufacturing, and online retailing of components and systems for marine robotics. We strive to make products that are high-quality, well-supported, and low-cost with the goal of enabling and expanding the field of marine robotics.
2) Veo Robotics ( Waltham, MA) - 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.
3) Flyability (Lausanne, Switzerland) - Software Engineer.
INFO: At Flyability, we believe that robots should be sent in hazardous places and dangerous situations instead of putting humans in danger. To support our belief we created Elios, the world’s first collision-tolerant flying robot that for the first time allows entry to complex and indoor spaces.
4) Zen Robotics (Helsinki, Finland) - Robotics Software Developer.
INFO: ZenRobotics Ltd is a global leader in intelligent robotic recycling. We provide a solution to the world’s waste crisis with AI-based sorting robots that make recycling more efficient, accurate and profitable.
0) Weekly Robotics #32 Survey Results.
INFO: In Weekly Robotics #32 we created a survey that was completed by 66 readers. Thank you! The post above contains the results of the survey with some commentary, plans for the future and current state of the newsletter.
1) BREEZE- Bioinspired Ray for Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration.
INFO: BREEZE is a research project by Javid Bayandor from State University of New York that received funding as part of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. The project will explore developing a flying ray built from inflatable structures with bio-inspired kinematics.
2) Orbital Drive (2017).
INFO: This YouTube video by Skyentific presents an Orbital Drive a speed reducer for brushless motor with ratio of 35:1. There is a follow up video from the author from two weeks ago in which he tests the Orbital Drive with ODrive, an open source motor controller.
3) The Age of Robot Farmers.
The New Yorker
INFO: In this article from The New Yorker John Seabrook describes the current state of the strawberry farm labour market in the US and how robotized strawberry pickers can come to the rescue. We like how this article presents the business case for robots for strawberry picking without overselling it. Another thing we liked is the mentioned ‘demo effect’ during the picker presentation and how cautious one has to be if the Lidar is off.
4) Hello (Real) World with ROS – Robot Operating System.
INFO: If you are looking to learn ROS you might consider taking a look at this free edX course that covers ROS setup, communication, autonomous navigation, motion planning and object detection.
5) Robots Help Archaeologists to Explore Pre-Incan Ruins in Peru (2018).
INFO: This article (and a featured video) presents how Archaeologists from Stanford Archaeology Center are using robots for ruins exploration. In the video we can see a Vinebot (you can see how to make one in this tutorial) and a small mobile rover being used in the field.
6) SpaceX Falcon Heavy Sticks Triple Rocket Landing with 1st Commercial Launch.
INFO: SpaceX Falcon Heavy had it first operational mission debut on April 11th. The rocket deployed an Arabsat-6A satellite and finished the mission by having the two side boosters land on the ground and the center booster land on the drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
7) Publication of the week - Quasi-Direct Drive for Low-Cost Compliant Robotic Manipulation (2019).
INFO: This paper introduces Blue - a force-controlled low-cost 7 DoF robotic arm capable of handling payloads of up to 2 kg (4.4 lb) designed by engineers from Berkeley. The robot is meant to work well in unstructured environments while costing under $5,000 when produced in large volumes. The robot’s control system is running on Intel NUC and heavily utilizing ros_control package. The project website contains further information about the project, including videos showing the robot performing various tasks and tests performed on the robot.
1) RobotShop, Putting Robotics at Your Service™
INFO: RobotShop is the world’s leading source of robotics technology. It provides personal, domestic, and professional robots, development platforms, kits, and specialized robotic parts. RobotShop is also an important source for robotics education, innovation and research. Use code Weekly5% for 5% discount off your first order until May 31st.
1) Dorabot (Various Locations) - Various Positions.
INFO: Our engineers are developing innovative industrial solutions that work flexibly in semi-structured environments, supported by business professionals with decades of experience leading innovative enterprises. We found this video from Dorabot to be really worth a watch!
2) RE 2 Robotics (Pittsburgh, PA, US) - Various Positions.
INFO: RE2 Robotics is dedicated to creating a next generation of mobile robotics technologies that help users better interact with their environments. We mentioned RE2 performing robotic disaster cleanup in Weekly Robotics #33.
3) Mobile Industrial Robots (Odense, Denmark) - Functional Safety Software Developer.
INFO: Mobile Industrial Robots is a leading manufacturer of collaborative mobile robots. We are dedicated to developing user-friendly, flexible and safe robots to help companies increase the efficiency of their operations.
1) Self-driving Moving Hackathon For Engineers and Hackers.
INFO: Moving Hackathon is a global meetup and hackathon event for self-driving startups, engineers, developers and enthusiasts worldwide. Aiming to lower the entry barrier of self-driving, Moving Hackathon provides car platforms equipped with computing abilities, drive-by-wire control and other hardware support onsite, also closed urban roads to test and challenge for global self-driving engineers. Moving Hackathon is meant to spark the spirit of engineering and facilitate the mutual growth. Apply before Apr.18th and get flight reimbursement, free accommodation and meals.
2) 2019 Hackaday Prize.
INFO: Via website: This is the 2019 Hackaday Prize, the worldwide hardware design contest focused on product development. We know you can build a working prototype, and we still want to see you do that. But a great idea should have reach beyond your own workshop. This year’s Hackaday Prize is about taking your product across the finish line, from concept to design for manufacture.
3) Apply to the 2nd RobotUnion Open Call and Get Up to €223K Equity Free Funding and Full Acceleration Package.
INFO: RobotUnion, the pan-European acceleration programme related to the robotics industry, has launched its second call with €4 million equity free funding for startups and SMEs. Through this call, RobotUnion lead by Fundingbox will continue the acceleration journey with other 20 startups that will develop projects in the field of robotics linked to agri-food, healthcare, civil engineering and manufacturing. Each selected company could receive up to €223,000 public funding as well as access to technological support from European robotics experts and business acceleration services. The best-performing companies participating in the programme will have a chance to obtain an additional €1 million of private investment in funding rounds led by the top VCs and investment advisors from the Robotic Industry.