Robot Shoots Hoops, Nothing but (Sky)net
February 15th, 2012
This robot is clearly into sports, as it throws balls through hoops, bolts into boxes, and hits tiny plastic figures as if it were bowling. It even picks up a dart and throws it at the dart board.
This one comes out of The Cornell Creative Machines Lab and the University of Chicago. It’s a new way for robots to interact with objects, using a “Positive Pressure Universal Gripper” that can pick up and toss things of any shape without having hands. It is basically just a robotic arm with a balloon for a hand.
It uses a technology called “jamming.” The arm has a latex balloon filled with sand or another granular substance. The balloon goes over the object to be picked up, and all of the air is pumped out of the balloon. This makes the granules jam together and grip objects tightly.
What they have done here in order to throw objects, is add “positive pressure”. This means that in addition to deflating the balloon, their robot can quickly re-inflate the balloon. That allows them the robot to toss objects pretty far with remarkable accuracy. It’s cool to watch in action, though it is far from precise. I can’t help but picture a giant version being used to pick up and throw human corpses into a pile. Let’s hope that we can avoid that version of the future.