y Andy Choi
Researchers at the University of Zurich, Switzerland have developed a robot that can balance a pencil. New Scientist informs that pole-balancing is, apparently, a "well-known exercise in robotics research."
This pencil-balancing bot demonstrates that sometimes too much information can make a task harder. Though balancing large poles is a well-known exercise in robotics research, but scaling down to a pencil hadn't yet been achieved because robots couldn't react fast enough--until the Swiss researchers struck upon a novel visual processing idea.
These previous robots were hindered by their video-camera vision, which required them to process a full frame of video to identify changes in their environment. The new robot uses a pair of silicon retinas that only react to sudden changes in illumination, transmitting a simple "on" or "off" response that reduces the need for complex data processing. This mimics how our eyes actually work, and it reduces the processing load for the robot, allowing it to react more quickly.
As the researchers explain on their site, "our processing algorithm extracts the pencil position and angle without ever using a 'full scene' visual representation, but simply by processing only the spikes relevant to the pencils motion."
Could this be the next executive toy - the most advanced pencil holder in the world?