I just received word from Berthold Bäuml, a lead scientist in realtime dynamic motion planning at DLR, that they've developed a new humanoid robot named "Agile Justin." Agile Justin is very similar to Rollin' Justin (the ball-catching, Pulp Fiction-dancing robot), except that it has improved dynamic performance. To test the new hardware, DLR researchers have programmed Agile Justin to throw a baseball. Naturally, since Rollin' Justin is able to catch a baseball (see the DLR project page), researchers set up an impromptu game of "catch" between the two robots -- shown in a sneak peek video below. It sounds like this new system is just ramping up and will be used to push the envelope in terms of full-body control: real-time coordination of hands, arms, torso, and mobile base for dynamic tasks. I'm told that technical details should be forthcoming in academic publications later this year along with demonstrations at Automatica 2012.
We have some news regarding our work with our ball catching humanoid robot Justin: we built a second system, very similar to the already existing Rollin'Justin, but with improved dynamical performance: 1.5x faster arms through different gear ratios; completely new wheel electronics and bus architecture, which allows a 500Hz control loop over all four wheels and steering DOFs on the mobile platform; 1kHz control loop for the arms, torso and hand DOFs.
This new system is called "Agile Justin" and is able to move fast enough and with the necessary timing precision in a coordinated motion of the wheels, arms and hands to throw a ball. In this video, we show both Rollin' and Agile Justin playing ball. With this system, we want to do research in realtime dynamic whole body motion planning.
It sounds like the "science" side of their research is just getting started, but they have a solid piece of hardware in Agile Justin. Given that they've done a lot of great work on realtime ball catching with Justin in the past -- it was an ICRA 2011 finalist for "Best Video Award" -- I have high hopes. I'll be anxiously awaiting the technical details, which should appear in conferences later this year (reviewers-willing, naturally) along with demos at Automatica 2012.
On a side note, I must say: It looks like the guys at DLR might be foregoing the RoboCup challenge (you know, building a team of robotic soccer players to take on the human World Cup champions) and heading straight for a "World Series" robot team instead. They now have robots capable of tossing the ball, catching the ball, walking on two feet, and withstanding a few well-placed smacks by a baseball bat (not to mention a hammer to the fingers) for the inevitable bench-clearing brawls -- as evidenced in the videos below!
I kid, of course. ;-) It's just some robust engineering out of the German Aerospace Center.