Robot Eyes Track Ping Pong Balls

This 1,000-frames-per-second camera always keeps its eye on the ball

1 min read
Robot Eyes Track Ping Pong Balls

ishikawa super fast camera robot

Professor Masatoshi Ishikawa from the University of Tokyo writes in to point us to their latest video. It shows their 1,000-frames-per-second camera using a pan-tilt system to track a ping pong ball. The device is so fast it can always keep the ball in the center of the frame. 

Possible applications include tracking balls or players on sports broadcasts and recording detailed dynamics of a flying bird of fast moving vehicles.

And how do they do it? The camera uses a custom vision chip that monitors what pixels are changing, and by doing that one thousand times per second it can keep track of fast moving objects (bouncing balls, flipping pages, falling eggs...).

Professor Ishikawa says they made the video because their earlier clip showing a robot hand that plays (and always wins at) rock-paper-scissors (3 million views on youtube) "lacked enough technical details" and wasn't satisfying for robotics researchers. With the video above (and check out their web page too) they hope to provide more background on their technology. No problem, Professor Ishikawa, just keep making more videos!

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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
DarkGray

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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