Skip to Content
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. 

Deep Dive

Artificial intelligence

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

The viral AI avatar app Lensa undressed me—without my consent

My avatars were cartoonishly pornified, while my male colleagues got to be astronauts, explorers, and inventors.

Roomba testers feel misled after intimate images ended up on Facebook

An MIT Technology Review investigation recently revealed how images of a minor and a tester on the toilet ended up on social media. iRobot said it had consent to collect this kind of data from inside homes—but participants say otherwise.

How to spot AI-generated text

The internet is increasingly awash with text written by AI software. We need new tools to detect it.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.