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Video Friday: Rocket RoboBee, Willow Garage, and Caltech's Cassie

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

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 two months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!): Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos. A new RoboBee from Harvard can swim underwater, and then launch itself into the air with a microrocket and fly away. At the millimeter scale, the water's surface might as well be a brick wall.


Video Friday: Robot Push-Recovery, Air-Water Drone, and DARPA Explains AI

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

These autonomous ground robots can be deployed to establish a mobile microgrid. Muscular activity contains information on motion intention. By decoding the muscular activity of an arm during reachig-to-grasp motions, Billard Lab was able to detect grasp type in the early stages of a reaching motion which enables fast activation of a robotic hand by teleoperation. Our goal is to develop AirSim as a platform for AI research to experiment with deep learning, computer vision and reinforcement learning algorithms for autonomous vehicles.


The Self-Driving Car's Bicycle Problem

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Nuno Vasconcelos, a visual computing expert at the University of California, San Diego, says bikes pose a complex detection problem because they are relatively small, fast and heterogenous. Consider the Deep3DBox algorithm presented recently by researchers at George Mason University and stealth-mode robotic taxi developer Zoox, based in Menlo Park, Calif. On an industry-recognized benchmark test, which challenges vision systems with 2D road images, Deep3DBox identifies 89 percent of cars. More automakers are expected to follow suit as European auto safety regulators begin scoring AEB systems for cyclist detection next year. In December, Wiedenmeier warned that self-driving taxis deployed by Uber Technologies were violating California driving rules designed to protect cyclists from cars and trucks crossing designated bike lanes.


Waymo Shows Off Its Do-It-Yourself Robocar Hardware

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

On the stage next to Krafcik stood a self-driving hybrid minivan from Fiat Chrysler equipped with his company's technology. A short-range lidar covers areas beside the minivan that would otherwise have been in the shadow of the rooftop sensor. Exactly how much of Waymo's self-driving prowess comes from such hardware--rather than improved software and road mapping--isn't clear. What is clear is that Waymo wants to supply the entire auto industry with packages that can be fitted to just about any vehicle.


After Mastering Singapore's Streets, NuTonomy's Robo-taxis Are Poised to Take on New Cities

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Take a short walk through Singapore's city center and you'll cross a helical bridge modeled on the structure of DNA, pass a science museum shaped like a lotus flower, and end up in a towering grove of artificial Supertrees that pulse with light and sound. It's no surprise, then, that this is the first city to host a fleet of autonomous taxis. Since last April, robo-taxis have been exploring the 6 kilometers of roads that make up Singapore's One-North technology business district, and people here have become used to hailing them through a ride-sharing app. Maybe that's why I'm the only person who seems curious when one of the vehicles--a slightly modified Renault Zoe electric car--pulls up outside of a Starbucks. Seated inside the car are an engineer, a safety driver, and Doug Parker, chief operating officer of nuTonomy, the MIT spinout that's behind the project.


Pittsburgh's AI Traffic Signals Will Make Driving Less Boring

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Traffic congestion costs the U.S. economy $121 billion a year, mostly due to lost productivity, and produces about 25 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions, Carnegie Mellon University professor of robotics Stephen Smith told the audience at a White House Frontiers Conference last week. In urban areas, drivers spend 40 percent of their time idling in traffic, he added. The next step is to have traffic signals talk to cars. Pittsburgh is the test bed for Uber's self-driving cars, and Smith's work on AI-enhanced traffic signals that talk with self-driving cars is paving the way for the ultimately fluid and efficient autonomous intersections.


Retracted: GM-Lyft Self-Driving Taxis Could Launch in 2019

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

The FCC filings referenced in the IEEE Spectrum story are not part of our autonomous vehicle development program. This is the first concrete indication of the scale and intended deployment date of GM and Lyft's autonomous on-demand network since GM announced a US 500 million investment in Lyft in January. In late July, however, engineers at General Motors filed applications for thousands of millimeter range radar systems. The 76-GHz radars represent "a new hardware generation", according to a written request to the FCC for confidentiality by Jeffrey Clark, a GM engineer in charge of long range radars.


Fatal Tesla Self-Driving Car Crash Reminds Us That Robots Aren't Perfect

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

In a statement, Tesla Motors said this is the "first known fatality in just over 130 million miles [210 million km] where Autopilot was activated" and suggested that this ratio makes the Autopilot safer than an average vehicle. The radar should not have had any problems detecting the trailer, but according to Musk, "radar tunes out what looks like an overhead road sign to avoid false braking events." Almost every other self-driving car with a goal of sophisticated autonomy uses LIDAR to fill this kind of sensor gap, since LIDAR provides high resolution data out to a distance of several hundred meters which much higher resiliency to ambient lighting effects. This bypasses almost all front-impact safety systems on the passenger vehicle, and as Tesla points out, "had the Model S impacted the front or rear of the trailer, even at high speed, its advanced crash safety system would likely have prevented serious injury as it has in numerous other similar incidents."


Video Friday: iCub Does Yoga, Wooden Walking Robot, and Wind Tunnel for Drones

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

We're told that Markus bet that this thing could only work in theory, and lost: This video introduces the monospinner, the mechanically simplest controllable flying machine in existence. With the company's ultra-low power, high performance Myriad 2 processor inside, the Fathom Neural Compute Stick can run fully-trained neural networks at under 1 Watt of power. As a tinkerer and builder of various robots and flying contraptions, I've been dreaming of getting my hands on something like the Fathom Neural Compute Stick for a long time. Last year in Seoul, KAIST's Unmanned Systems Research Group participated in an autonomous car demo in downtown Seoul.


5D Robotics Can Locate You To Within An Inch

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

"It's a peer-to-peer system," Mann told IEEE Spectrum at Robouniverse, a conference held this week in New York City. The vehicle may have a transmitter of its own, the better to serve as a moving beacon; or, it may simply carry a UWB tag. "They are good for following--that's when a soldier walks or drives in front, and an autonomous vehicle follows, carrying cargo," Mann says. If you positively, absolutely can't allow unauthorized access to your system, UWB beacons are the obvious alternative.