If hand-eye coordination isn’t your strong point – here’s a robot to help catch objects for you. It’s been designed by EPFL researchers to react on the spot, grasping objects in less than 500th of a second.
To obtain the desired speed and adaptability, LASA researchers were inspired by the way humans themselves learn: by imitation and trial and error. This technique, called Programming by demonstration, does not give specific directions to the robot. Instead, it shows examples of possible trajectories to it. It consists in manually guiding the arm to the projected target and repeating this exercise several times.
The research was conducted with a ball, an empty bottle, a half full bottle, a hammer and a tennis racket. These five common objects were selected because they offer a varied range of situations in which the part of the object that the robot has to catch (the handle of the racket, for example) does not correspond to its center of gravity.
The case of the bottle even offers an additional challenge since its center of gravity moves several times during its trajectory. When projected into the air, all these items will make even more complex movements, often involving several axes. Watch the video for a demonstration!