Researchers Teach A Robot To Catch Flying Objects Like Yogi Berra

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When the robot uprising begins, don’t try to take on our new overlords by throwing assorted household items at them.

It won’t work, man. IT WON’T WORK.

Meet Ultra-fast, a robotic arm built by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute Of Technology In Lausanne. By analyzing an object’s shape and trajectory a few hundred times per second and combining that data with the knowledge gathered through previous attempts, Ultra-fast can learn to catch just about any solid, palmable object you might throw its way.

A ball? Easy. A hammer? Why not!

One of the crazier bits: because it’s programmed to learn the unique characteristics of each new object, it can adapt for the differing trajectories of, say, an empty water bottle versus a half-full water bottle. Need it to consistently catch a certain part of an object, like the handle of a tennis racket? It’ll do that, too.

They probably wouldn’t want to pit this thing off against Brian Wilson’s fastball just yet, but hey — if we’re going to march ourselves toward the Robacalypse, we might as well take baby steps.

So what’s the end goal here? Besides having awesome household robots that can play catch-the-half-empty-water-bottle with you, the team envisions robotic arms that can catch and/or bat away the hurtling space debris that challenges our satellites and space stations. (Downside: that’d probably put the kibosh on Gravity 2)