Robots excel in situations where they can be told precisely what to do. Manufacturing robots, for example, serve rigid roles, strictly determined ahead of time and governed by simple rules. Movements are repetitive and exact, timing rarely changes, and errors are coped with in a set of predetermined contingencies.
It wouldn't be accurate to say that the "Justin" robot, a humanoid machine built by the Institute of Robotics and Megatronics at the German Aerospace Center, is intelligent--it's not, in any familiar sense. But it's definitely fair to call it extremely capable. Its most impressive talent is the ability to catch a ball thrown not by a predictable and consistent machine, but by a consistently inconsistent human. Have a look:
What's its trick? Well, it's got a few:
Throwing a ball and pouring drinks makes for good footage, but this kind of dynamic response capability has wide practical applications, not just in human interaction but in manufacturing--particularly in complex, highly variable sorting or screening scenarios that currently require a human eye and touch.
Likewise, the same technology that allows Justin to consistently catch a baseball could be used to give a humanoid robot a well-timed and well-positioned handshake. And those sensors in his hand could make sure that its a convincing one--not too limp, not too firm, and most importantly, not too robotic.
Justin will be on display at the ICRA 2011 expo in Shanghai.
[DLR via PlasticPals, Ubergizmo and Gizmodo]
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com