Watch Rollin’ Justin Robot’s Amazing Double Barehanded Catch! (video)

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Rolling Justin Catches Balls

Rollin' Justin makes this two handed catch seem easy. Try it with your's not.

There's a special place in a nerd's heart for a robot that can beat jocks at sports and fetch us a cup of coffee at the same time. Needless to say, Rollin' Justin is filling my ventricles with joy. Created by DLR, the German aerospace center, Rollin' Justin is a two-armed humanoid on a wheeled base that looks pretty flashy in its bright blue metallic skin. But Rollin' Justin is more than just a slick exterior, DLR is teaching it how to be a top of the line athlete and barista too. Watch the badass blue bot perform a series of quick barehanded catches in the video below. Don't miss the double barehanded catch at 1:27. The clip also highlights how Rollin' Justin's visual and tactile sensors are sophisticated enough to allow it to make and serve coffee. Simply incredible. It suddenly seems that robot athletes and manservants are much closer than I thought.

Justin should be the envy of many engineers when it is discussed at ICRA 2011 next week. Its accomplishments will be presented in a paper titled: Catching Flying Balls and Preparing Coffee: Humanoid Rollin’Justin Performs Dynamic and Sensitive Tasks. With such highly contrasting tasks, DLR is showing that Rollin' Justin is capable of both high speed movements as well as fine-tuned precise control. The robot, and its creators, deserve some major accolades for performing so well over a wide dynamic range. It's important to point out, however, that much of Rollin' Justin's brains for these tasks were outside its body. In order to calculate trajectories and make necessary minuscule adjustments, an external processing server had to be used that communicated with Justin at high speed. Given another few rounds of Moore's law, we'll probably be able to put these systems directly in the robot itself, but for now, Rollin' Justin's success has a small asterix next to it.

That's fine by me because those catches are just so phenomenal I don't really care if Rollin' Justin needed an external coach to help it. When an organization like RoboCup claims it will have human-level synthetic athletes by 2050, it's hard to know if they're being overly optimistic or not. Performances like this, however, show that maybe RoboCup was being a little pessimistic. Many of my human friends can't do a double barehanded catch (you know who you are), but Rollin' Justin is already there and bound to get better as computational power improves. It's also possible the rolling robot will be fitted with matching legs sometime in the near future. There are still many obstacles to getting robots to perform well on the sports field or the cafe, but if we keep seeing improvements like these I'm sure we'll clear those obstacles with plenty of height to spare.

[screen capture and video credits: DLR via Hizook]
[source: Baeuml et al to be presented at ICRA 2011, DLR]

Discussion — 7 Responses

  • Homer May 4, 2011 on 10:19 am

    Great story and video!

    As I commented before, the RoboCup prediction of 2050 is conservative, and by a large margin. I think that by 2020 we’ll have robots that exhibit human-level athleticism in most areas. This will allow a robotic soccer team to best the 2022 human World Cup champs (assuming the human jocks are not enhanced!).

  • Graham Jaroslow May 4, 2011 on 11:13 am

    a few more? the server was dual core and that was probably only because they wanted to focus on the robot, not its brains. for a $100K-1M robot, a $5K quad/hexicore mobile sized processor is nothing. make that a pro server level processor and we could see this guy juggling snakes while they sleep…

  • Joe Nickence May 4, 2011 on 3:00 pm

    As far as I’m concerned, networking with an external processor is just fine by me. What good is a home server if you can’t tie your bot into it?

  • Halneufmille May 4, 2011 on 4:51 pm

    The last advantage of personal secretaries was their unique ability to make coffee…

  • Eric K May 5, 2011 on 1:14 am

    Amazing : wait 2 years and you get the perfect android, perfect body and perfect brain

    Artificial actuaor muscle

    CNT structure

    invincible : stronger than crystal, faster than human, power efficient, and love 2000 celsius degree

    3D processor, with DSP for vision, and quantum dot for some tasks

  • Eric K May 5, 2011 on 1:14 am

    I for one welcome our new robots overlords

  • Eric K May 5, 2011 on 1:16 am

    Dear we are fucked