Robotic arm that can catch flying objects
With its palm open, this robot is completely motionless. A split second later, it suddenly unwinds and catches all sorts of flying objects thrown in its direction - a tennis racket, a ball, a bottle and so on.
Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne have developed a bionic arm that capable of reacting on the spot and grasping objects with complex shapes and trajectories in less than five-hundredths of a second!
This arm measures about 1.5 metres long and keeps an upright position.
It has three joints and a sophisticated hand with four fingers.
"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 Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory (LASA) at EPFL.
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, he added.
This robotic arm already has a very real potential application in space.
It has been associated to the Clean- mE project carried out by the Swiss Space Center at EPFL that aims to develop technologies for the recovery and disposal of space debris orbiting around Earth.
Fitted on a satellite, the arm would have the task of catching flying debris, whose dynamics are only partially known, researchers noted.
To obtain the desired speed and adaptability, LASA researchers were inspired by the way humans themselves learn: by imitation and trial and error.
The invention has been described in an article published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Robotics.
(Posted on 12-05-2014)