Friday, August 7, 2009

Robot Hands: Fast Ones

"High Speed Robotic Hands"

GerbilGod7, YouTube (July 29, 2009)
video 3:18

There's virtually no description, apart from links to other websites:
  • Ishikawa Komuro Laboratory
    Department of Information Physics and Computing, Department of Creative Informatics,
    Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, University of Tokyo
  • BotJunkie
The video itself is very impressive, although not all segments have a clear indication of what the size of the robot hands are.

It's clear that robotics is still a developing field. The 'tricks' that impressed me most were the flip-and-catch by one robotic hand, twirling a pencil-shaped stick by another, and the High-Speed Multifingered Hand's twiddling with a ball - and then throwing it.

Many of the segments have a normal-speed section, followed by slow-motion replays that allow the viewer to see what happened.

This is impressive technology. It looks like robots are, in some ways at least, faster and more precise than we are at handling objects.

For me, that's hardly a startling idea. I grew up among cats and knew that there were creatures for whom we probably seem to live at a slow crawl.

The last I heard, artificial intelligence is a (very) long way from giving us something like Star War's R2D2 and C3P0. But it looks likely that industrial robots are going to be doing more complicated jobs on assembly lines.

Technology Changes, People Learn

I know: that means that some people who are good at doing repetitive tasks for hours at a time will eventually have to learn to apply their abilities to new tasks. That's not always easy. I've learned new sets of skills fairly often, being at one time or another a sales clerk, beet chopper, radio disk jockey/engineer, delivery driver, graphic designer, office clerk, help-desk technician and advertising copywriter.

Not everybody gets the chance to learn quite as many skills: and learn that new skills can be learned.

I know the story of John Henry - who, behind all the stories probably really lived. And died, 'with a hammer in his hand,' having beaten a steam drill in a contest. My hat's off to the sort of determination that songs celebrate. (There are many variations on the 'John Henry' lyrics - including a bluegrass take on the song.)

Still, I think when technologies and job change, it's more prudent to learn new skills.

I see I've written about this sort of thing recently. (July 24, 2009)

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