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The Most Fun or Useless Robot Applications?

Mathieu Bélanger-Barrette
by Mathieu Bélanger-Barrette. Last updated on May 05, 2016 4:26 PM
Posted on Jul 02, 2015 12:09 PM. 4 min read time

Doing marketing in the robotic world is a tough business. In fact, I sometime feel that robots are doing boring, repeatable operations that are not that impressive in general. Yet robot manufacturers are trying to find the cutting edge of marketing to demonstrate the precision and speed of their robots by doing high voltage demos. Even if the demos are totally useless in terms of the manufacturing process, they are pretty cool to watch. Also they do demonstrate important features about the robots and I bet the marketing gurus have had a lot of fun creating them. 

So here are a couple of robot manufacturers that have put out some impressive demos using their industrial robots. Trust me, they all worth a watch. 

Samurai robot

Yaskawa/Motoman recently revealed their latest video on the Bushido Project. The project was basically to mimic the Samurai’s motion by the robot and demonstrate that it can be as precise as one of the best Samurai in the world. They also prove that the robot can be more enduring than a human Samurai!! Really worth it.

The project is using a Motoman MH24, a robot that has a 24 kg payload, a vertical reach of 3.088 meters and a horizontal reach of 1.73 meters. The robot has a repeatability of +/- 0.06mm. This robot is normally used for assembly, dispensing and machine tending operations. However, this time it was manipulating a katana. 

The human model for the project was Isao Machii, an Iaijyutsu master. He currently holds 5 world records. The Motoman/Yaskawa team recorded his movements in 3D and then replicated them with their robot. The Iaijyutsu master is using his experience to maneuver the katana, it is way different for the robot. The robot simply imitates the motions of the master and with its great repeatability is able to do crazy cuttings (the one with the soya bean is quite impressive). By programming the position of the robot relative to the objects to be cut, the robot is able to execute its motions in the same fashion as the Iaijyutsu master and perform the exact same maneuvers. An interesting fact about this video is that Motoman/Yaskawa wanted to show the endurance of the robot with the Thousand Cuts Challenge. You can see that the human Iaijyutsu master is tired when he finishes his challenge, while the robot is obviously still ready to continue with its repetitive tasks (no sweat). With no disrespect intended to the Iaijyutsu master, humans are human and this is one of the points of the video.

Ping Pong Robot

What happens when a ping pong master is trying to beat a robot at his own sport? Well, you should take a look at the next video to see what happened. 

The Duel is confronting the ping pong expert Timo Boll. He is one of the best ping pong players on the planet, he is an Olympic medalist, including several times on the podium at world championships. He can probably beat your little cousin that has a ping pong table in the basement hands down. The robot used for this duel is a KUKA KR AGILUS claimed to be the fastest robot in the world. With a reach of 901 mm and a repeatability of 0.03 mm, the robot is well equipped to challenge any human in a ping pong game. In my own opinion the fact that the robot is able to hit the ball isn't a big thing. The most impressive part of the demo is the (hidden) vision system/software that analyzes the trajectory of the ball and gives instant feedback to the robot. This process is done at a terrific speed which allows the robot to react to what his opponent is doing. I am not quite sure if the robot understands the offline rules, but it is still pretty impressive. 


KUKA recently did a revenge video between Timo and the KR AGILUS. 

ABB Fanta Can Challenge

What are you going to do when you need to carry a bunch of Fanta cans and you have nobody to do it? Well you simply ask an ABB industrial robot to do cool stuff with it. After their first iteration using two robots, ABB decided to increase the ''WOW'' factor and brought in three robots to complete the exercise. Here's what happened. 

The first ABB Fanta Can Challenge was realized in 2004. With its second iteration in 2009, ABB wanted to demonstrate its superior motion control system. With an impressive 1 mm gap between the pin and the can, it is astonishing to see the robots working at such high speeds without kicking the cans. The most impressive thing is that all the robot axes are working together at these high speeds without any complications. The robots used for this application are the IRB 140 model. The robot has a relatively small payload, but is pretty accurate (0.03 mm) and fast (TCP velocity @ 2.5 m/s and axis #6 velocity @ 450 °/s). 

So even if the applications shown above are pretty useless in terms of manufacturing processes, they are still pretty impressive to watch. Proving once again that robots are good for endurance and repeatability. What will be the next marketing stunt for robot manufacturers? If you have cool stuff to share with us, let us know in the comment section. 

Get Specifications of 44 Industrial Robots with Payloads Between 20-50 kg

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Mathieu Bélanger-Barrette
Mathieu is a production engineer at Robotiq, where he constantly strives to optimize the production line for Robotiq Grippers. He enjoys discovering new robotic applications and sharing what he learns on Robotiq's blog.
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