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German Robot Plays Pool, Throws Down Robot Pool Gauntlet

With several different human-sized robots now capable of playing pool on real tables, a confrontation seems inevitable

1 min read
German Robot Plays Pool, Throws Down Robot Pool Gauntlet

Well, it's inevitable now. RoboGames obviously needs to add a new event: robot pool. Willow Garage got their PR2 sinking balls as part of a week-long hackathon, and at ICRA, the Germans answered back with a similarly-sized dual arm robot able to pocket five balls in a row:

Thomas Nierhoff, a masters student at Technische Universität München (TUM), used a human-sized mobile robot with dual 7-DOF arms that's able to manipulate a pool cue similarly to how a human does. A camera above the table tracked the positions of the balls and helped the robot plan its shots, separating each into various difficulty thresholds to help the bot decide which it should take. It managed to nail most of the easier shots about 80% of the time, which isn't too shabby, and seems like it would probably make it competitive with the PR2.

It's a shame, then, that Germany is such a long way from California. But wait! It just so happens that there are several PR2s in Germany. And it also just so happens that one of them is right there at TUM, albeit in a different lab. Personally, I don't see how it would be possible not to set up a friendly little game, and if Rosie wants to get involved too, I'm all for that. Place your bets in the comments!

This robot was presented at ICRA in a paper entitled "Playing Pool with a Dual-Armed Robot" by Thomas Nierhoff, Omiros Kourakos, and Sandra Hirche, all with the Institute of Automatic Control Engineering at TUM.

[ TUM ]

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
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In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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