Teams at the Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory of the University of Tokyo have been dedicated themselves to the research and development of high-speed robots movement sensor control as well as real-time visual feedback system.
Recently, according to the Laboratory’s official website and a just released demo video, they have achieved five technical goals and key tasks with their robots that make a future all-robots baseball team seem quite possible:
The robotic arm and fingers developed by the Lab are able to mimic human throwing practices based on analyses of the kinetic chain. The robot can now easily throw a ball into the strike zone with a success rate of 90%.
The high-speed actuators, rotating cameras and visual feedback system allow the robot’s “gaze" to track a fast-moving target.
The robotic arm can make a perfect hit anywhere in the strike zone by responding to the movements of the ball every millisecond (1/1,000 of a second), while controlling the strike direction. We can see successful batting tests both between two robotic arms (one pitcher and one hitter) as well as between a human pitcher and a robot hitter.
Most interestingly, the Lab points out that this task was completed entirely with the robotic arm’s high-speed active vision, without the need for prediction or learning functions.
Again, thanks to light-weight actuators and high-speed visual feedback, the biped robot runner of the Lab’s ACHIRES (Actively Coordinated High-speed Image-processing Running Experiment System) Project can recognize and minutely adjust its forward-leaning posture while running on a fast-moving conveyer belt.
A robotic arm developed by the Lab can open and close its metal fingers 10 times a second in response to the visual feedback, and thus able to catch a flying ball with precision.
Therefore, once "integrating these abilities into one robot,” as they said on the official website, you can actually get a robot playing pitch perfect baseball!
However, this brings forth an interesting question: if we ever have a baseball team full of perfect robot players, without those tricky human elements of risks, chances, haphazard emotions, strong personalities, failing physique, heartbreaking losses and injuries, psychological warfare versus head-butting strategies, do people still want to go see the games at all?
Still, an online commenter mentioned that these incredible baseball-playing robots will prove invaluable in future human players’ training camps and practice regimens, which could be a potential application and indeed merits further exploration.