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This robot arm will catch anything you throw at it
Today in ‘anything you can do, this robot can probably do better’, we present a robotic arm that will catch whatever object you throw in its direction.
While robots can be taught to do all manner of amazing things – from forming an orchestra to jumping like a kangaroo – they’re also prone to being very clumsy. There’s surely no finer example of this than the time Honda’s cherished Asimo robot tumbled awkwardly down a flight of stairs – during a stair-climbing demonstration, of all the times to do it.
Robots are getting slicker, though, and researchers at EFPL (LASA) have developed a robotic arm capable of reacting on the spot and grasping objects with complex shapes and trajectories in less than five hundredths of a second. As demonstrated in the video below, that’s insanely fast.
Can this robot catch anything?
Within reason. It’s not about to catch a fridge-freezer or a grain of rice, but it can second-guess difficult objects that the average human would struggle with. Water bottles, hammers, and tennis rackets are all fair game. A robot like this could even be used in the future for warding off debris in outer space.
“Increasingly present in our daily lives and used to perform various tasks, robots will be able to either catch or dodge complex objects in full-motion, said Aude Billard, head of LASA. “Not only do we need machines able to react on the spot, but also to predict the moving object’s dynamics and generate a movement in the opposite direction.”
Best of all, the arm’s catching abilities will improve the more you throw at it. As with humans, practice makes perfect, and the robot uses a technique called “programming by demonstration” to learn information about the shapes and trajectories of different objects.
Soon it will be the robots laughing at videos of humans tumbling down the stairs.