Robotics, the technology behind creating, developing and operating robots, has been around for years. The original concept planned for the machines to take over for humans in dangerous situations. As technology advanced, so did robotics. Robots are now designed to do just about anything. Dr. Jan Peters, from the University of Darmstadt, will tell you they can even play tennis.
Although tennis is nothing new for robots, Peters might be the first to teach the robot to play more advanced and complex moves required for the game using direct human guidance. Peters, a professor for Intelligent Autonomous Systems at the university, has specialized in robot technology for years. Peters’ research relies on the intersection of two fields, machine learning and robotics. Peters has been working on bringing these fields together and might have his first breakthrough with his Darmstadt team.
Iddo Genuth, reporter for The Future of Things, said Peters and his team have been working for months to see how complex they can teach a robot to be. “Dr. Peters and his team used a robotic arm with an attached bat as the basis for their work and experimented using two different teaching techniques. The first was to physically hold the robotic hand and move it in a way that will perform a given move, the other method was to program the robotic hand to perform the same task,” said Genuth.
Genuth said it took the team almost three months to program the robot, but after testing they found the results to be stronger when they physically move the hand verses trying to program it. The team continued their experiments using a ping pong ball and found that the robot was more likely to return the ball when it was taught through human assistance as well.
“The research is still in its early stages, but it has the potential to effect much more than just the sport of table tennis,” said Genuth. “Performing a complex series of delicate movements and respinding to a changing environment could usher a new generation of robots which are more capable to interact with their surroundings and perform taks that currently only humans are capable of doing.”
Edited by Rachel Ramsey