DeepLabCut is an open-source toolbox that can be used to capture the motion of animals from video footage - no markers required. An Chi Chen and Dr Patel put it to the test on a challenging application: tracking the motion of cheetahs.
Dr Amir Patel of the RAM group gave a talk titled 'Understanding the Cheetah Tail: A Robotics Perspective' at the Fall Seminar Series hosted by the Mechanical Engineering Department at Johns Hopkins University, where he discussed the application of methods from the robotics field to investigating the role of the cheetah's tail in its incredible manoeuvrability, and his sabbatical work on contact-implicit trajectory optimization and markerless motion capture.
Final year students working on projects with the RAM Group took home the lion's (or, more appropriately, the cheetah's) share of prizes at UCT's 2018 Electrical Engineering Open Day. Their topics included a rotating camera gimbal that recognises and follows a running animal, a markerless motion capture system that can determine a subject's pose from video footage, and a low-cost three-axis force plate.
Simulation and trajectory optimisation have become vital additions to the roboticist's toolkit, but the dynamics of legged systems are particularly challenging to model because they change every time a foot makes or breaks contact with the ground. Dr Patel spent some of his sabbatical applying his mind to the problem and, together with his student, Stacey Shield, and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University, he came up with a new approach to the problem that's more accurate and faster to execute than established methods.
Dr. Amir Patel co-organised a workshop titled "Unusual Appendages: Novel, multi-modal, or multi-functional uses for limbs, tails, and other body parts” at this year's RSS conference, held at Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to bringing together esteemed speakers from the bio-inspired robotics and biomechanics communities, this workshop was a chance to showcase his work on the aerodynamics of tails inspired by the cheetah.
The International Conference on Robotics and Automation took place in Brisbane, Australia, the first time the conference took place in the Southern Hemisphere. Alex Blom, one of the masters students in the RAM lab, attended and presented his paper on the optimal design of a robot leg for acceleration manoeuvres.
A paper by the RAM Research Group titled Tracking the Cheetah Tail using Animal-Borne Cameras, GPS and an IMU has been accepted for publication in IEEE Sensors Letters. Congratulations to Dr. Amir Patel, Bradley Stocks, Callen Fisher, Prof. Fred Nicolls and Prof. Edward Boje on this achievement.
All the best to Neil and Amir, who leave for Korea today. They'll be presenting their paper, 'Minimum Time Sprinting from Rest in a Planar Quadruped', at the 2016 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. The conference will be held at the Daejeon Convention Centre from 9-14 October.