Video Friday: RACER Heavy – IEEE Spectrum


Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

Eurobot Open 2024: 8–11 May 2024, LA ROCHE-SUR-YON, FRANCE
ICRA 2024: 13–17 May 2024, YOKOHAMA, JAPAN
RoboCup 2024: 17–22 July 2024, EINDHOVEN, NETHERLANDS
Cybathlon 2024: 25–27 October 2024, ZURICH

Enjoy today’s videos!

DARPA’s Robotic Autonomy in Complex Environments with Resiliency (RACER) program recently conducted its fourth experiment (E4) to assess the performance of off-road unmanned vehicles. These tests, conducted in Texas in late 2023, were the first time the program tested its new vehicle, the RACER Heavy Platform (RHP). The video shows autonomous route following for mobility testing and demonstration, including sensor point cloud visualizations.

The 12-ton RHP is significantly larger than the 2-ton RACER Fleet Vehicles (RFVs) already in use in the program. Using the algorithms on a very different platform helps RACER toward its goal of platform agnostic autonomy of combat-scale vehicles in complex, mission-relevant off-road environments that are significantly more unpredictable than on-road conditions.


In our new Science Roboticspaper, we introduce an autonomous navigation system developed for our wheeled-legged quadrupeds, designed for fast and efficient navigation within large urban environments. Driven by neural network policies, our simple, unified control system enables smooth gait transitions, smart navigation planning, and highly responsive obstacle avoidance in populated urban environments.

[ Github ]

Generation 7 of ‘Phoenix’ robots include improved human-like range of motion. Improvements in uptime, visual perception, and tactile sensing increase the capability of the system to perform complex tasks over longer periods. Design iteration significantly decreases build time. The speed at which new tasks can be automated has increased 50x, marking a major inflection point in task automation speed.

[ Sanctuary AI ]

We’re proud to celebrate our one millionth commercial delivery—that’s a million deliveries of lifesaving blood, critical vaccines, last-minute groceries, and so much more. But the best part? This is just the beginning.

[ Zipline ]

Work those hips!

[ RoMeLa ]

This thing is kind of terrifying, and I’m fascinated by it.

[ AVFL ]

We propose a novel humanoid TWIMP, which combines a human mimetic musculoskeletal upper limb with a two-wheel inverted pendulum. By combining the benefit of a musculoskeletal humanoid, which can achieve soft contact with the external environment, and the benefit of a two-wheel inverted pendulum with a small footprint and high mobility, we can easily investigate learning control systems in environments with contact and sudden impact.

From Humanoids 2018.

[ Paper ] via [ JSK Lab ]

Thanks, Kento!

Ballbots are uniquely capable of pushing wheelchairs—arguably better than legged platforms, because they can move in any direction without having to reposition themselves.

[ Paper ]

Charge Robotics is building robots that automate the most labor-intensive parts of solar construction. Solar has rapidly become the cheapest form of power generation in many regions. Demand has skyrocketed, and now the primary barrier to getting it installed is labor logistics and bandwidth. Our robots remove the labor bottleneck, allowing construction companies to meet the rising demand for solar, and enabling the world to switch to renewables faster.

[ Charge Robotics ]

Robots doing precision assembly is cool and all, but those vibratory bowl sorters seem like magic.


The QUT CGRAS project’s robot prototype captures images of baby corals, destined for the Great Barrier Reef, monitoring and counting them in grow tanks. The team uses state-of-the-art AI algorithms to automatically detect and count these coral babies and track their growth over time – saving human counting time and money.

[ QUT ]

We are conducting research to develop Unmanned Aerial Systems to aid in wildfire monitoring. The hazardous, dynamic, and visually degraded environment of wildfire gives rise to many unsolved fundamental research challenges.

[ CMU ]

Here’s a little more video of that robot elevator, but I’m wondering why it’s so slow—clamp those bots in there and rocket that elevator up and down!


In March 2024, Northwestern University’s Center for Robotics and Biosystems demonstrated the Omnid mobile collaborative robots (mocobots) at MARS, a conference in Ojai, California on Machine learning, Automation, Robotics, and Space, hosted by Jeff Bezos. The “swarm” of mocobots is designed to collaborate with humans, allowing a human to easily manipulate large, heavy, or awkward payloads. In this case, the mocobots cancel the effect of gravity, so the human can easily manipulate the mock airplane wing in six degrees of freedom. In general, human-cobot systems combine the best of human capabilities with the best of robot capabilities.

[ Northwestern ]

There’s something so soothing about watching a lithium battery get wrecked and burn for 8 minutes.

[ Hardcore Robotics ]

EELS, or Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor, is a versatile, snake-like robot designed for exploration of previously inaccessible terrain. This talk on EELS was presented at the 2024 Amazon MARS conference.

[ JPL ]

The convergence of AI and robotics will unlock a wonderful new world of possibilities in everyday life, says robotics and AI pioneer Daniela Rus. Diving into the way machines think, she reveals how “liquid networks”—a revolutionary class of AI that mimics the neural processes of simple organisms—could help intelligent machines process information more efficiently and give rise to “physical intelligence” that will enable AI to operate beyond digital confines and engage dynamically in the real world.

[ TED ]

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