A robot that can do something I can't

An item about a robot created at the Czech Technical University in Prague caught my eye. Students there put together a couple linear motors and a vision system to create a 'robot' that can juggle five balls. The write up on Physorg.com reads in part, 'You can add another check to the column of things that a robot can do that an average human can't.'

Well, yeah, including me. I have been trying to juggle five balls off and on for decades. I quickly mastered three and four-ball juggling when I should have been studying for finals during my undergrad years. But five balls have always eluded me. The best I have ever been able to do is get four balls going in the five-ball pattern.

If you look at the video of the juggling robot the Czech students have devised, it seems to take the approach of putting two, then three, then four, and finally five balls in the same pattern.

For you non jugglers out there, this isn't the way a human juggler would approach the task. The normal juggling pattern for an odd number of balls is such that the balls travel from the right hand to the left (or vice versa). But the pattern for an even number of balls isn't this way at all. The balls typically stay in the same hand. So a four-ball pattern has balls 1 and 2 oscillating in one hand, balls 3 and 4 oscillating in the other.

The videos of the thing are interesting. The comments below the Physorg.com item are stupid: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-06-robot-balls-video.html

You can find a bit more information about this effort on the Czech university site (Don't worry, it is in English): http://dce.fel.cvut.cz/juggler/

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Lee Teschler

Leland serves as Editor-in-Chief of Machine Design. He has 34 years of Service and holds a B.S. Engineering from the University of Michigan, a B.S. Electrical Engineering from the University of...
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