Old School Robot Juggles 3 Balls, and Those Hippie Sticks (video)

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juggling robot from Sarcos
Moving to fast to see, the Sarcos robot juggles 3 balls like a pro.

The internet is a time machine. Case in point: Sarcos‘ cool humanoid robot that can juggle. With its hands replaced by soft fabric cups, the bot from the Utah based robotics company can flip three colored balls in the air and catch them again without fail. Or, if balls aren’t your thing, the bot can use its hands to play with “devil sticks” and juggle a long pole by knocking it back and forth. Check out the performing robot in the videos below. These are the sort of tricks your 10 year old nephew tries to impress you with during family gatherings – but it’s pretty cool to see a robot perform them so well. Especially when you consider that the videos are probably nine to ten years old. While they were posted to YouTube in 2006, the originals on the Sarcos website’s video page look like they’re from 2001 (judging by the presence of QT5 and other clues). We’ve had juggling robots for a decade? Sometimes I forget how long the journey towards perfecting humanoid robots has been.

If you’re dying to see this Sarcos humanoid performing more entertaining feats, you should definitely check out the old Sarcos video page. You can see the robot balance a pole on its arm, bounce a ball on a paddle or even play air hockey against a human opponent.

After you’ve watched those videos in isolation, go and check out our story on the super fast robot hands from Tokyo University. Those machines can bounce a ball against a flat surface several times a second. The coordination and speed of humanoid arms have advanced considerably in the last decade. It’s pretty amazing to see the contrast.

So what has Sarcos been up to in the past few years? Has their humanoid also made leaps ahead? Well, yes and no. Sarcos has spent a lot of its time and effort developing an exoskeleton for the US Army. The exoskeleton is essentially a tele-operated robot that you ride inside, amplifying your strength considerably. Raytheon picked up the project and has been releasing some impressive videos of the suit, as we’ve covered before. Seeing the old projects from Sarcos, and the new exoskeleton’s success, puts the last decade of robotics in perspective. While some, like Honda and Kawada, have climbed to the top of the humanoid market, other companies leveraged their robot experience into related endeavors. You never know how a technology will be adapted and changed in the future.

Just to hammer that home, I’ll leave you with a hilarious video of Sarcos’ tele-operated Sarcoman robot from 1999. Somewhere in here is part of the technology behind an army exoskeleton….but I’m not sure you can see it through all the soul-less dancing.

*Thanks to Botjunkie for bringing the juggling robot video back into public consciousness.
[screen capture and video credits: Sarcos via CommunistRobot]
[sources: Sarcos, Botjunkie]