Robotics Handbook

Robot Ethics

Robotics Handbook

Springer Handbook of Robotics

I found this excerpt of the TEDx talk by Bruno Siciliano describing the growing research area of Roboethics to be fascinating and important. Prof. Siciliano is the Director of the ICAROS Center at the Universita degli Studi di Napoli Federico II. He is co-editor with Oussama Khatib of the first and second editions of the Springer Handbook of Robotics. The entire talk is available at the link Robotics and Napoli.

Mechanisms and Robotics Conference

2016 Mechanisms and Robotics Conference

Mechanisms and Robotics Conference

Symposia organized for the 2016 Mechanisms and Robotics Conference

The 2016 Mechanisms and Robotics conference is part of International Design Engineering Technical Conferences organized by ASME International in Charlotte, North Caroline, August 22-24.

Plenary speaker Bernard Roth is the Academic Director of Stanford University’s and the author of the Achievement Habit.

For some reason, ASME has broken these links to the 2016 IDETC conference, but you can find out more about each of the symposia at the conference overview link: 2016 ASME Mechanism and Robotics Conference Overview.  Then select the Expand all Symposia Link to see the sessions and a list of papers.


Virgo 2 SUTD

Rolling Robot at SUTD

Virgo 2 SUTD

Virgo 2 SUTD

A research team including Profs. GimSong Soh, Kristin Wood and Kevin Otto at Robotics Innovation Lab at the Singapore University of Technology and Design has developed a rolling robot about the size of a baseball. The design and motion planning of this robot, Virgo 2.0, was presented at the Mechanisms and Robotics Conference which was part of the 2015 ASME Design Engineering Technical Conferences, August 2-5, in Boston, MA. A demonstration of the Virgo 2.0 moving through a figure eight path around obstacles is shown in the video below.

Laval Robot

An Interesting Planar Robot at Laval

Students of Prof. Clement Gosselin at the Laval University Robotics Laboratory demonstrate a four-degree of freedom planar robot. I particularly like the demonstration of its use as a gripper that does a cartwheel just for fun.

Tensegrity Robot

Tensegrity Robotics at UC Berkeley

Students in Professor Alice Agogino’s Berkeley Emergent Space Technologies Laboratory, the BEST Lab, working on motion planning for their tensegrity robot.

Rescue Robotics

Patches for the Energy Invitational and Rescue Robotics Challenge

This is the participant patch for the 2015 Energy Invitational on May 24, 2015 on UCI’s Campus.

Energy Invitational

Energy Invitational

This is the participant patch for the 2015 Rescue Robotics Challenge on May 31, 2015

Rescue Robotics

Rescue Robotics

Leg Mechanisms

Walking Machines

Leg Mechanisms

Leg Mechanisms

An outcome of Mark Plecnik’s research on the kinematic synthesis of six-bar linkages is a variety of designs for the leg mechanisms of small walking machines.

We hope to build this walker over the summer. It has one drive motor on each side:

This is my favorite because it couples the legs on one side with a pantograph linkage. The leg joints are living hinges. and it seems this the entire leg system can be cut from a single sheet of plastic:

This is a design study for a walker with eight legs on one side, 16 total:


JPL’s ATHLETE Rover Walks, Rolls, and Slides


JPL’s ATHLETE Rover (image from paper cited below)

The ATHLETE Rover is a mixture of a wheeled rover and a walking robot, or better a walking truck, created by engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory to be used for manned and unmanned missions to the moon. ATHLETE, which stands for All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer, is a six-legged walker that is taller than a person. The walker also rolls since it has powered wheels at the end of each limb. This allows the ATHLETE great mobility over changing terrain.

An innovation that comes from the leg-wheel combo is the Sliding Gait, which is a mode of transport more efficient than walking that can be used over loose or steep terrain where driving is impossible. Sliding Gait uses some of the articulated legs as anchors while others do the walking or sliding, like skating. This allows for quicker more responsive movement of the robot. The ATHLETE is to be remote controlled from earth or by astronauts on the moon, so the many different ways the machine can travel give more options to a remote user to navigate tricky terrain.


ATHLETE at work (image from paper cited below)

Motion planning is critical to the operation of ATHLETE because it is both a walker, a rover and something in between, so it takes some work to plan out each step. Footfall is the software that assists the remote driver in planning each step. It uses “telemetry from the robot, such as joint angles and stereo camera image pairs, and generates 3D terrain map,” computes a sequence of movement commands and presents an animated preview to the driver. Footfall makes it possible for this big robot to really move.


FootFall: A Ground Based Operations Toolset Enabling Walking for the ATHLETE Rover,” by Vytas SunSpiral, Daniel Chavez-Clemente, Michael Broxton, Leslie Keely, Patrick Mihelich, David Mittman, and Curtis Collins.

Sliding Gait for Athlete Mobility,” NASA Techbrief, This work was done by Julie A. Townsend, Curtis L. Collins, and Jeffrey J. Biesiadecki of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Read more about the ATHLETE Rover at JPL’s Website


Wearable Robotics Put Spring in Your Step

Wearable electronics or “wearables” are seen as the next great wave of technology and commerce. Much of the popular talk about these kinds of products revolves around things like fitness trackers, augmented reality devices, and other machines you can wear that interact with, track, or add on to your experience with the world around you. Thomas Sugar, a professor at Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus and a wearable robotics expert works on a different kind of wearable.

Along with his colleagues and students, he has developed a new generation of powered prosthetic devices that can be used for rehabilitation and as prosthetics for amputees. He works on spring-based robots that enhance human mobility based on lightweight energy storing springs that allow for a more responsive and therefore more functional human gait. His devices make position control calculations 1,000 times per second to make the prosthetics as human as possible.

Sugar starts from a “human being first” research perspective since his devices must be wearable and efficient. In his devices, spring power and motor power combine to create a powered system that gives prosthetic ankles the “push off” and “toe pick up” they need in order to mimic the function of human ankles.

His idea of a robotic tendon is much more efficient than a direct drive system, which would require more electricity and larger, more powerful motors.   In fact, his innovation uses half the required energy of a direct drive system powered prosthetic ankle.

In a different device attached to the ankle Sugar uses able-bodied movement to harvest energy from walking. His company SpringActive developed a boot attachment with the military in mind that turns walking into back up power for batteries with negligible metabolic cost.

The real world and commercial applications for this kind of research are far reaching.   For more on Thomas Sugar’s and his colleagues’ work, visit and

21st Century Kinematics

Workshop on 21st Century Kinematics

21st Century Kinematics

21st Century Kinematics

The NSF Workshop on 21st Century Kinematics at the 2012 ASME IDETC Conference in Chicago, IL on August 11-12, 2012 consisted of a series of presentations and a book of supporting material prepared by the workshop contributors.

The book is now available at 21st Century Kinematics–The 2012 NSF Workshop.

And here are the seven primary presentations given at the workshop.

  1. Computer-Aided Invention of Mechanisms and Robots. J. Michael McCarthy, Professor, University of California, Irvine.
  2. Mechanism Synthesis for Modeling Human Movement. Vincenzo Parenti-Castelli, Professor, University of Bologna.
  3. Algebraic Geometry and Kinematic Synthesis. Manfred Husty, Professor, University of Innsbruck.
  4. Kinematic Synthesis of Compliant Mechanisms. Larry Howell, Professor, Brigham Young University.
  5. Kinematics and Numerical Algebraic Geometry. Charles Wampler, Technical Fellow, General Motors Research and Development.
  6. Kinematic Analysis of Cable Robotic Systems. Vijay Kumar, Professor, University of Pennsylvania.
  7. Protein Kinematics. Kazem Kazerounian, Professor, University of Connecticut.

Colleagues joined in with two additional presentations:

Many thanks to the contributors and the attendees for an outstanding workshop.

Update: The presentation links have been fixed.