Researchers Teach A Robot To Catch Flying Objects Like Yogi Berra


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)