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back to article Now that's PROPER SCIENCE: Boffins teach robo-arm to catch flying beer bottle

Youtube Video A new robo-arm capable of catching anything that’s thrown at it – even at ultrafast speeds – has been unveiled by boffins from the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). The super-fast grasping hand can react on the spot, snatching items like a tennis racket, a ball or half a bottle of beer out of the …

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Pint

That's pretty cool

Have a beer.

(*catch*)

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Re: That's pretty cool

Cheers! Thanks!

<SMASH>

Damn!

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Coat

Re: That's pretty cool

What's not cool is the amount of beer wasted while training the thing...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That's pretty cool

People spill beer too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HVsU-vwUpdM

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Anonymous Coward

"Learns how to calculate trajectories in real time"

I'm sensing a plan to win back the Ashes

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Terminator

As foretold...

It's only a matter of time before Krikkit gets involved in this technology.

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Anonymous Coward

Enter

standard cyberdyne/terminator/skynet joke...

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Re: Enter

I did think it should be filed under rise of the machines in boot notes

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Re: Enter

Just make sure no one teaches it how to throw back the caught grenades or use the caught tennis racket to swat them back at us.

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Re: Enter

Mine's in. See below.

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Anonymous Coward

Wow.....

Cool stuff. I was not surprised to see the Chinese and the Indian guy in the lab though. I know it sounds a little racist but I couldn't avoid noticing it.

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Re: Wow.....

Could somebody get Dr Shukla a Red Sox t-shirt, please?

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Go

Love it

Oh to be young again, and have a job that's actually cool.

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Thumb Up

Impressive

Have to say, as one with bad hand/eye corrdination, this is impressive, especially the tenis racket.

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Re: Impressive

I'd be more impressed if it could react to the scenario in which the handle never comes in reach, meaning the only way to catch the racket is by the rim, just as we have to sometimes react to a less-than-optimal situation and fall back to just finding some way to grab it. Or with the bottle, determining that it might be best to hesitate or else the hand will grab the half-full bottle in a position best left uncaught: upside-down.

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Anonymous Coward

That's pretty badass, particularly given that it does a better job than a lot of humans do. I'd like to see it done with cameras that are proximal to the robot rather than surrounding the throwing area, and without the marker balls - but it makes sense to leave that for after you get the catching bit done.

It's also unclear whether it can catch novel objects now that it's learned about different situations, or whether it has to learn objects individually and be told what it's going to get - though maybe that's just my not being awake yet.

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I'd guess the reflective markers give each object a unique signature that should be easy to recognise and that the grab point is known relative to the marker positions.

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Mushroom

old hat

great, but have a look at the technology used in a recycling plant. Throws an object into the air, shoots an IR beam at the polymer object, collects a spectrum, determines which polymer it is, and then uses an air gun to blow it into the right bin, whilst the the object is falling back to a high speed conveyer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: old hat

What you describe is far, far, FAR easier than catching an arbitrarily thrown object. It's like the difference between twanging a ruler on the end of the table and playing a Mozart violin concerto.

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Awesome but...

Lets see it's backhand volley and then I'll be truly impressed

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Headmaster

Catch unconsciously?

...necessary to catch a ball unconsciously*

You maybe mean subconsciously, rather than unconsciously?

Or are you versed at catching things when you're asleep or out cold, movie-ninja stylie?

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Re: Catch unconsciously?

No, unconsciously is the correct word, though not in this case to mean "while unconscious (ie. asleep)" but rather "without exerting conscious thought to the task", like what happens in a reflex.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Catch unconsciously?

So, subconsciously then?

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Re: Catch unconsciously?

No, because that STILL implies use of the brain. Reflexes don't have to go through the brain.

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Re: Catch unconsciously?

If I judge by the content of this article, if you're catching an object reflexively you are still using your brain because you need to know where the object is, thus you have to use your view and correlate with the reflexive action.

The kind of reflex you refer to is the bump on the knee thing. That does not go to the brain and if you end up kicking someone it has nothing to do with aim.

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What's "ultra fast"?

That's impressive, although perhaps the author of the piece might care to define rather more precisely "ultra fast" means as, literally speaking, it just means "beyond fast". As I'm not at all sure what the limit of "fast" is, I don't know if this is equivalent to a gentle lob, a fast bowler or a speeding bullet.

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Re: What's "ultra fast"?

Pretty safe to assume "beyond fast" can be qualified as "beyond any human capability to perform the feat."

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Facepalm

Pedantry. You're doing it wrong.

Is el reg a Latin publication? In modern English the prefix 'ultra' is just a synonym for the adjective 'extreme'.

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Re: What’s “ultra fast”?

Steven, ultra also has more than one Latin meaning. In this case, the “more than” meaning might be the best fit.

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Pint

Missed Opportunity

If they had chosen dead parrots, instead of beer bottles, one could say: Polytechnique Project Ponders Projectile Passed Polly Technique. p....pp.....pp.p...pp.pp (sorry but it's all the feathers in my mouth)

Je raises une beer glasse a les etudiants mais qui!

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Thumb Up

This stuff has come a *long* way

Since the days of 3 Sun workstations running flat out to play (s-l-o-w) table tennis.

Well done.

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Bullets?

Grenades are easy - but can it snatch a speeding bullet out of the air?

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Coat

Re: Bullets?

Sure... so long as you've put reflective markers on the bullet. :P

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Pint

So this means...

...Skynet will also be able to fetch me beer?

Well hell! I for one welcome our new robot overlords! Cheers!

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Simple task

compared to figuring out Cricket, that is.

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Maybe it will soon...

Catch a nice 90 MPH curveball, thrown by a major league pitcher. That would be an interesting feat. I'd start out small, and use a tennis ball, which can in fact curve (personal experience). It is quite amazing to watch. Surprised even me!

Of course, a nice knuckleball would be an even better test.

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Re: Maybe it will soon...

Tennis balls are easy to curve because their felt surface is rough and uneven, making it easier to create air turbulence, much as reverse swing bowlers like one side of the ball to look (quoting a commentator) "as if a dog's been chewing on it."

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