Posts Tagged ‘robot’


05/04/2013 2 comments

Festo is a German automation company. But beyond industrial automation they also do a lot of research in the field of robotics. While they have some nice parts of humanoid designs, the most interesting designs are their designs based on the locomotion of animals. They base their designs on animals because evolution has “developed” animals in an energy deficient environment. Thus, development based on animals will lead to lightweight and energy efficient designs.

Their first robotic animal experiment was in 2006. They made a robotic fish that could swim.

They continued in the same line in 2007 when they made a manta ray that would swim. They also made a flying version of it.

They continue their aquatic designs with a jelly fish.

Festo Aqua Jelly

Festo Aqua Jelly

And they also build a flying version of it. Which is my personal favourite project of theirs.

In 2009 they build a penguin. Again both in swimming and in flying version.

Festo Aqua Pengiun

Festo Aqua Penguin

In 2010 they stop with their aquatic based designs and make an elephant trunk like arm what they call their Bionic Handling Assistant.

In 2011, they make a robot based on a real flying animal, their smartbird. The wings not only go up and down, but also twist at specific angles.

2012 brings a gripper based on the head of a bird. Because of its design, a very light gripper with a large stroke and force can be achieved.

Festo Powergripper

Festo Powergripper

And this year they released a dragonfly like robot. The Bionicopter. The Bionicopter has 13 degrees of freedom, so this is really a nice example of miniaturisation as all sensors, actuators and control components have to be put in a very small space.

I think they have a very nice research and development atmosphere at Festo and wouldn’t mind working for such a company.


Festo :



03/03/2013 4 comments

While it looks that personal robots are far off, they are invading our homes today.

I think, a vacuum robot is the most successful kind of robot today. You can find the from around 150 Euro up to 900 Euro.

There are a lot of manufacturers, but 2 noteworthy models are the Roomba and the Neato.

Picture of the Roomba and the Neato

Roomba (left) and Neato (Right) (Image curtsey of

The Roomba uses a simple random path based on foraging techniques of insects. It passes several times over the same area which may be sub-optimal for timing, but that might not be a problem if you are not around while it cleans. It has sensors to detect dirt so it can clean does areas more thorough.

The Neato uses a laser range finder for planning an optimal path. This way, every place is only cleaned once.

Both robots (the more advanced versions anyway) have scheduling options so they can start when you are not at home and have recharging stations they automatically will return to after cleaning.

They are not the most complex robots, but they seem to do what they were designed for and are rapidly gaining popularity. A few years ago, you had to look for them directly on the manufacturers website to get them. Now you can find them in stores like the Fnac and the Colruyt.

For the moment they are not a complete replacement of vacuuming by hand, but they can decrease the number of times you have to do it manually, and increase the general cleanliness of your house by vacuuming more often then you would do yourself.

Musical Robots

26/01/2013 5 comments

Something less academic, but more concerning robotics becoming more mainstream.

Here is an overview of robots playing musical instruments.

We start of with a very impressive rock/metal cover band Compressor Head.

The sound in the next clip isn’t superb, but it really shows an impressive overview of the band.

Stickboy, the pneumatic drummer, was created in 2007. It was not until 2009 when Fingers -the guitar player- was created that they actually formed a band to do performances. Last year Bones was added to the band with the bass guitar. Bones has actual human-like fingers to play the bass, while Fingers has 78 pneumatic actuators to make music. What is particularly interesting is the very human-like motions all the musicians make (well, the bass player doesn’t do a lot, but they often don’t do a lot in real life either). They now tour around the world.

Next up, we have a trumpet playing robot made by Toyota.

The trumpet has a special mouth piece for the robot, and they developed lips for this robot as trumpet playing is based on utilisation of the lips.

The following duo is a research project from the Waseda Universite in Japan. This “duo” is playing the flute and the saxophone.

While an automated saxophone me be nice, the flute deserves some attention. Playing the flute is dependent on a very precise placement of the lips on the flute. They used lips based on the lips of the previous (trumpet playing) robot. The flutist also has lungs, a vocal cord and a tongue, to simulate human behaviour as close as possible.

Toyata is doing a lot of work in robotics. An other of their musical creations is this violin playing robot.

It doesn’t only have the fine dexterity needed to play the violin, but it is also self-balancing (It will prevent itself from falling over if it is pushed) and can jump.

Those off course are all robots playing predetermined tunes. The next robot on the list however improvises to play along with an other musician.

This robot -called Shimon- also has some organic like behaviour in the motion of its head. The head seems to improve the interaction between the musician an the robot according to the people working with the robot.

To close off. Something a little bit different.

The next robot is not meant to play a real instrument. Instead, based on “Pipedream” a 3D animation by Animusic, Intel made something as seen in the animation but in real life as a techdemo.

The technique isn’t completely the same as in the 3D animation because the music is produced by a synthesizer linked to pressure plates instead of real instruments. But is impressive non the less.