Robotic Pitchers and Catchers - A Sure Sign of Spring?

Greg Galitzine : Robotics
Greg Galitzine

Robotic Pitchers and Catchers - A Sure Sign of Spring?

As baseball fans eagerly await the return of pitchers and catchers to spring training, it seems that researchers at the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics at DLR (German Aerospace Center) have come up with a robot nicknamed Agile Justin that can throw a ball. Which, some baseball purists (among others) might point out, is about time, since last year the Institute created the ball-catching robot, Rollin’ Justin.

I mean, can it still be called catch if you’re playing alone?

justin_02.jpgAccording to information on DLR’s Web site, the technology necessary to mimic the human capacity for catching a thrown ball is not so basic. What’s needed is a good catching strategy, body control and dexterity. All of which means that creating a pair of robots that can soft toss is an excellent test bed for proving a number of related robotic technologies.

According to DLR:

“…head mounted HD stereo-cameras track the thrown balls. During the flight the predictions continuously improve and a real-time path planner decides where, when, and in which configuration to kinematically optimal catch the ball. For this, a non-linear optimization problem (including simple collision avoidance) is repeatedly solved on an external computing cluster (32 cores).”

The baseball tossing robotic Justins are DLR’s way of studying their component based aRD (agile robot development) software concept, with distributed sensors, actuators, and computing resources, communicating under hard real-time constraints.

This brings a whole new challenge to robotics as far as the battery is concerned.

If you’re curious, check out the video.

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