The good people and robots at California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
Needs no introduction - Caltech is one of the top engineering and research schools in the world.
The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) started as a vocational school back in 1891 and was founded by a businessman and politician Amos G. Throop. With a donation of $100,000, the Throop Vocational School was born which grew into a world-renowned engineering school.
Today, Caltech is a scientific powerhouse that has had a long an impressive history of producing top-notch graduates and research in many fields.
One of the fields Caltech is notorious for is robotics. The good people at Caltech are working very hard to utilize robotics for the improvement of the human race.
Here are some of the valuable assets at Caltech to serve as an example of the institutions greatness in autonomous robotics development.
Cassie is an autonomous bipedal robot that can run and walk like a human.
A company called Agility Robotics created Cassie and now has a new more capable and robust product called Digit V2 which can be used to deliver packages.
A video so you can hear and feel Digit V2 delivering your holiday presents.
Advanced Mechanical Bipedal Experimental Robotics Lab (AMBER)
Superstar professor of Mechanical and Civil Engineering Aaron Ames is heading the Advanced Mechanical Bipedal Experimental Robotics Lab that develops walking robots with a goal of having robots assist humans in a variety of tasks including human prosthesis.
He says that there are two very exciting avenues in which robots can be very useful:
1. useful robots in space.
2. useful robots that help humans.
An actuated prosthetic device from the AMBER lab.
Leornardo Bipedal Robot
Leonardo (Legs On board Drone) is basically a drone with legs which essentially makes it a flying robot. In the video below, you can see Leornardo stay in balance when pulled, walk straight on a narrow ledge and also spin on one leg. It is able to perform these feats with the help of the "thrusters" from the drone torso section of the robot.
We like the music in the video. Please note that the sound of the fans go along very well with the music and that was done on purpose!
One cant help but think about Leonardo's big brother that will be operational in about 25 years...
Aerospace Robotics and Control at Caltech
Caltech has an aerospace and robotics division that is dedicated to finding solutions that combine aerospace technology, robotics and AI.
Heading the development of Aerospace Robotics at Caltech is distinguished professor Soon Jo Chung, an extremely skilled bad-ass when it comes to combining robotics with aerospace technologies.
He says that a spacecraft is a perfect platform for higher level robotics because controlling a spacecraft remotely can be very challenging.
Here is a video of autonomous docking of two spacecrafts. Another one with great music!
Another project is the autonomous flying ambulance which has been in development for almost 3 years.
The final version of the ambulance will be piloted by an AI and will be used to airlift patients from hard to reach areas. This project was originally a gift from Disney Research division.
Speaking of Disney....
You may think Disney as just an entertainment company but beware, they are also heavily investing in robotics technology which could dramatically change how Hollywood action films are filmed.
Introducing the robotic stuntman by Disney Imagineering.
The Stuntronics robots can replicate to high degree of accuracy of human stuntman with its in the air self-correcting technology.
Also the Animatronic figure of the Navi Shaman from Pandora: The World of Avatar at the Walt Disney World.
The robot in the video is still a prototype but nonetheless it is one of the most advanced robots in the world. Its facial movement is very complex and close to human like.
Another interesting robot from Disney is Jimmy - also a lifelike robot that moves incredibly smoothly with speed and grace. Jimmy does not use the traditional motors and actuators but instead, uses a new technology created by Disney researchers that is made from tubes filled with air and water.
In the future, Jimmy will be fully autonomous but for now it is operated but a human puppeteer.
CAST - Center for Autonomous Systems & Technologies
Recently launched was a new robotics research facility at Caltech called CAST - Center for Autonomous Systems & Technologies.
According to CAST director and Caltech professor of Aeronautics and Bioinspired Engineering, Dr. Morteza Gharib, "we run a philosophy to create good robots, good partners that can help us to do what we want to do better.”
Director Morteza Gharib - also having a mythical status in the aerospace and robotics world, has dedicated his life to research in improving human lives through assisted medical devices such as heart valves and cardiovascular health monitoring devices.
Under his direction, we are confident CAST will continue to produce sound research and make good progress with the implementation and integration of robotics into the real world.
Another well-run asset at Caltech is the ME72 undergraduate robotics design class.
ME72 Is an engineering design lab with a goal design and build robots for competitions among class members.
This competition has been around for over 30 years and has different themes every year.
Teams must design, build, and operate three amphibious, radio-controlled robotic vehicles to battle in the Millikan Pond.
Tank wars (2017-2018):
ME72 students form into 6 teams and are challenged to design, build, and operate a fleet of 3 robotic tanks that can successfully navigate, control, and defend strategic base positions on the grass surface of the Beckmann lawn.
Back to times of splendor in 1991..the original robot-wars and first ME72 competition. It is a sumo wresting style in which the robots have to push the enemy robot off the table. Also note how the robots are powered by a wire for a limited 30 seconds.
Very interesting to see how the competitions have progressed over the course of 30 years.
Caltech Robotics Team
Winning the 2016 RoboSub competition with Dory - a fully autonomous underwater vehicle (submarine). The RoboSub competition is hosted annually by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) – a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing unmanned systems and robotics technology.
The robots in this competition are required to autonomously perform tasks such as firing torpedoes, dropping markers underwater, hitting buoys and locating underwater pins. The robot must also autonomously decide which tasks to perform and if the points gained from performing the tasks are worth the time required to perform it .
For example in the 2015 competition, Dory decided to not fire the torpedoes and instead go for the next task. This decision compounded with the other autonomously made decisions the all ever smart Dory resulted in Caltech Robotics Team winning the competition.
No one really knows why Dory decided not to fire the torpedoes but we would like to think that Dory likes using a more peaceful method to achieve the same goal.
Congrats Dory and the Caltech Robotics Team.
Most important are the thousands of students and faculty that have came through Caltechs doors over the years and made an impact on how we live our lives today. They are the unsung heroes of scientific progress and innovation for the human race. We tip our hats and convey great gratitude to them.
Praise the beaver!
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