Robots that sketch, play ping pong, solve mazes, and attempt to juggle strutted their stuff at the annual demo day for Stanford’s Experimental Robotics class. Each year, Professor Oussama Khatib’s students aim to teach a selection of industrial robots some new skills. The toughest project: teaching a Kuka robot to juggle. (It struggled, with balls getting stuck or flying wild… but as anyone who has tried to juggle objects can tell you, the learning curve is very steep.) The other projects included two robots that had been taught to draw (a Sawyer and a Puma), a Ping Pong–playing robot (the Kuka again) that scored a few points against its human opponents, a cowboy hat–wearing Sawyer robot that shot at a moving target, a Puma 500 robot that manipulated a maze to send a ball along the correct path, and a drone-loading Sawyer robot that tracked a less-than-stable hovering drone. Check them all out in the video below.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 30 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.