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Video Friday: Cassie on Fire, Disney’s Soft Robot Hand, and Car Humanoid

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

Image: Michigan Robotics/Dynamic Legged Locomotion Lab via YouTube

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 14-18, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA
ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia
Dynamic Walking Conference – May 21-24, 2018 – Pensacola, Fl., USA
RoboCup 2018 – June 18-22, 2018 – Montreal, Canada
RSS 2018 – June 26-30, 2018 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA
Ubiquitous Robots 2018 – June 27-30, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii
MARSS 2018 – July 4-8, 2018 – Nagoya, Japan
AIM 2018 – July 9-12, 2018 – Auckland, New Zealand
ICARM 2018 – July 18-20, 2018 – Singapore

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

If you’ve ever wondered why Cassie continually takes steps like she’s walking across something hot, this video will make sense to you:

“Hey, that cost $250,000, guys!” I hope that cost isn’t all in the feet, because those might be slightly more compliant than they were before.

If you need some hot foot relief, here’s a video of MARLO walking uphill in the snow, just like I used to on my way to and from school.

[ University of Michigan ]

Is Disney building a Baymax robot? Almost certainly.

We present the hardware design and fabrication of a soft arm and hand for physical human-robot interaction. The six DOF arm has two air-filled force sensing modules which passively absorb impact and provide contact force feedback. The arm has an inflated outer cover which encloses the arm’s underlying mechanisms and force sensing modules. An internal projector projects a display on the inside of the cover which is visible from the outside. On the end of the arm is a 3D printed hand with air-filled, force sensing fingertips. We validate the efficacy of the outer cover design by bending the arm to reach out and grasp an object. The outer cover performs as intended, providing enough volume and range of motion for the arm to move, and stretching at the elastic relief features in the cover. We also validate the hand design by implementing a grasping algorithm in which the fingers follow a closing trajectory, make contact, then maintain a given range of fingertip pressure. Using this algorithm, the hand is able to gently grasp a soft object.

[ Disney Research ]

Rice University students are working towards a longstanding goal of making the benefits of hippotherapy – equine-assisted therapy – available to those without access to a real horse. The students’ robotic device adds levels of sophistication to the project started several years ago. Their steed, named Stewie, is more comfortable and they believe more controllable for riders with neurological or movement disorders or problems with balance who could gain physical and mental benefits.

“Hippo,” it turns out, is Greek for “horse,” while “potamos” is Greek for “river.” Hippopotamus means “river horse.” Also, a group of hippos is called a bloat.

[ Rice ] via [ Engadget ]

Soft robotics is a growing field of research and one of its challenges is how to efficiently design a controller for a soft morphology. This paper presents a marine soft robot inspired by the ghost knifefish that swims on the water surface by using an undulating fin underneath its body. We investigate how propagating wave functions can be evolved and how these affect the swimming performance of the robot. The fin and body of the robot are constructed from silicone and six wooden fin rays actuated by servo motors. In order to bypass the reality gap, which would necessitate a complex simulation of the fish, we implemented a Covariance Matrix Adaptation Evolution Strategy (CMA-ES) directly on the physical robot to optimize its controller for travel speed. Our results show that evolving a simple sine wave or a Fourier series can generate controllers that outperform a hand programmed controller. The results additionally demonstrate that the best evolved controllers share similarities with the undulation patterns of actual knifefish. Based on these results we suggest that evolution on physical robots is promising for future application in optimizing behaviors of soft robots.

“Evolution of Fin Undulation on a Physical Knifefish-inspired Soft Robot,” by Frank Veenstra, Jonas Jørgensen, and Sebastian Risi, will be presented at GECCO 2018 in Kyoto in July.

[ University of Copenhagen ]

Thanks Jonas!

It’s the full-size, fully operational, fully transforming robot car humanoid thing that we’ve always wanted, I guess?

Incredibly, the transformation process does not chunkify the passengers:

The robot can walk at 100 meters per hour, drive at 60 km/h, and if it engages its drive wheels in biped mode, it can “theoretically” move at up to 30 km/h. Now that, I’d like to see.

[ Robotstart ]

NASA and the European Space Agency are now working together to explore options for a pair of missions that could take the next steps to bring samples back from Mars.


Can Ghost Robotics’ big quadruped do more push-ups than you? Almost certainly.

We didn’t see the start of the contest, so I’m assuming they both made it to like a hundred or something.

[ Ghost Robotics ]

Here’s a big pile of videos showcasing the finalists for Kuka’s 2018 Innovation Award. One of them has ice cream in it, but I won’t tell you which. The winner is at the end.

[ Kuka ]

Look, I know exoskeletons are supposed to be for the elderly and for rehab and for other socially positive things. But I really like the idea of just throwing one on to make shoveling snow a little bit easier.

The ATOUN Model Y weighs 4.4 kilograms, but can provide 10 kg of assistive lifting force for 4 hours on a charge. It’s still under development, sadly, and not for purchase (yet).


To celebrate the ninth annual National Robotics Week, IHMC’s Robotics researchers welcomed the public on April 13, 2018 for an Open House event in hopes of inspiring young people to seek out careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

[ IHMC ]

Kuka’s booth at Hannover Fair was a popular place, looks like:

We’re trying to find out more about that i-do robot, btw.

[ Kuka ]

Episode 1 of Generation Robot: Grant Imahara visits the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines (IRIM) at Georgia Tech to answer the question “What is a robot, and how will they redefine the human experience?”

[ Generation Robot ]

With the 2018 hurricane season just weeks away, the independent not-for-profit Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) announced the first ever Disaster Robotics Awards. Awards were announced for the 2018 Ground, Aerial, and Marine Rescue Robots of the Year on April 14, 2018 during a National Robotics Week ceremony at SEAD Gallery in Bryan, TX. This video show Dr. Robin Murphy presenting the awards.


In this week’s episode of Robots in Depth, Per interviews Walter Wohlkinger from Blue Danube Robotics.

Walter Wohlkinger from Blue Danube Robotics talks about their Airskin, a safety sensor covering robots and machines. Safety is critical in robotics and especially so in co-robotics where people work closely with robots. Walter tells us how his product, the Airskin, offers a way to add security to systems by adding a sensor to the robot. We get to hear how the Airskin can be used to control robots by sensing the pressure on different parts of the robot. This is interesting in a co-robot context as it allows for intuitive control of robots. Walter also talks about how the Airskin works by detecting air pressure differences inside the pad and handles puncture detection with a micro pump. Walter then shares the evolution of trying different production methods before settling on 3D-printing.

[ Robots in Depth ]