TossingBot, developed by Google and Princeton, can teach itself to throw arbitrary objects with better accuracy than most humans
As anyone who’s ever tried to learn how to throw something properly can attest to, it takes a lot of practice to be able to get it right. Once you have it down, though, it makes you much more efficient at a variety of weird tasks: Want to pass an orange ball through a hoop that’s inconveniently far off of the ground? Just throw it! Want to knock some small sticks placed on top of large sticks with a ball? Just throw it! Want to move a telephone pole in Scotland? You get the idea.
Most humans, unfortunately, aren’t talented enough for the skills we’ve developed at throwing things for strange reasons to translate well to everyday practical tasks. But just imagine what we’d be capable of if we could throw arbitrary objects to arbitrary locations with high reliability—it would be so much easier to do things like cleaning a room or sorting laundry, and it would completely change work environments like warehouses, where it could potentially cut out all of that time spent walking.
Now Google researchers, working with collaborators from Princeton, Columbia, and MIT, have developed a robot arm called TossingBot that can teach itself to pick up and toss arbitrary objects very accurately. The goal is significantly speeding up pick-and-place tasks by replacing the whole “place” bit with an elegant and efficient throw.
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