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Artificial intelligence

Watch this robot do the Bottle Cap Challenge—and show a new way to control machines

July 12, 2019
MIT CSAILMIT CSAIL

It isn’t quite a roundhouse kick, but check out the robot above in a simpler version of the “Bottle Cap Challenge.” (If you haven’t come across this yet, it consists of people trying to kick the top off a screw-top bottle without knocking it over.)

Why, tho? Social-media kudos aside, what the video actually demonstrates is an effective new way to control and interact with a robot. 

How’s it work? The underlying system, called RoboRaise, monitors a person’s muscles using EMG sensors, with help from a machine-learning algorithm that maps signals to physical movement. The robot then tries to mimic a person’s movements, although a user can also exert some control through careful flexing. It can be applied to any robotic hardware.

Robots like us: Despite so much talk of “robots replacing people,” the future is likely to involve a great deal of cooperation and collaboration. There will be many situations where a human’s intelligence and adaptability are required to help machines accomplish a task. 

The Bottle Cap Challenge might be a pointless exercise, for both humans and robots, but in this case it shows the kind of deft control that could help us interact with technology more effectively in the future. 

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