Manitoba Shoots and Scores as Group Completes First Hockey Playing Robot
Meet Canada’s newest most valuable hockey player: Jennifer, a hockey-playing robot.
Jacky Baltes, the robotics professor from the University of Manitoba’s computer science department, and 10 graduate students finished work on the robot named after Winnipeg’s own Jennifer Botterils.
Jennifer is the group’s proposal for the 2012 DARwIn-OP Humanoid Appliance Challenge, part of the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) being held May 14 through 18 in St. Paul, Minnesota. The theme for this year’s conference is, “Robots and Automation: Innovation for Tomorrow’s Needs.”
For several years, robots have been able to walk on flat ground. Baltes said teaching them to skate was the next step toward his ultimate goal of having the machines bale to walk on uneven ground and was a great way to engage his students.
“I was the national champion for speed skating three times and competed in the Olympics in 1984 and 1988…so as a professor I started to think about how you’d get a robot to skate well,” said Baltes.
Baltes began research on humanoid robotics in 2002 and has already built robots that can play basketball and run marathons. He hopes his previous robots and the completion of Jennifer will help him and colleagues eventually build robots that are able to tackle more important work.
“We’ve done work already with urban search-and-rescue robots,” he said. “For me, my life’s work will be complete if I can build a useful humanoid fire-fighting robot.”
Jennifer is 55 cm tall, fully autonomous, can shoot a ball into a net, and can skate on ice. She’s gaining popularity after her debut video was uploaded to YouTube, and will be on display from Feb. 20-24 during the U of M’s Humanoid Winter School, which is open to both the general public and robotic hobbyists.
In related news, Adept Technology, Inc., a leading provider of intelligent robots and autonomous mobile solutions, announced a collaboration with Willow Garage to deliver solutions for manufacturing and industrial applications harnessing the strength of Willow Garage’s ROS software framework with Adept’s proven industrial robotic solutions.
The objective of the project is to merge the expansive development opportunities offered by open source software with the exacting requirements associated with production and manufacturing.
Rachel Ramsey is a TMCnet editorial assistant, contributing news items and feature articles on a variety of communications and technology topics. Rachel has previously worked in PR and communications at The Wriglesworth Consultancy, an award-winning London PR firm. She has also contributed to the creative services department at CBS 3 and The CW Philly in Philadelphia. To read more of Rachel's articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Jennifer Russell