New Ultra-Fast Robotic Arm May Snatch Up Space Trash in Orbit (VIDEO)

First Posted: May 12, 2014 01:03 PM EDT

Scientists have made a breakthrough when it comes to robotics. They've created a new, ultra-fast bionic arm that can snatch objects out of midair.

"Increasingly present in our daily lives and used to perform various tasks, robots will be able to either catch or dodge complex objects in full-motion," said Aude Billard, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Not only do we need machines able to react on the spot, but also to predict the moving object's dynamics and generate a movement in the opposite direction."

The new robotic arm is about 1.5 meters long and stays in an upright position. It has three joints and can catch different sized objects thrown in its direction with easy. Created at the Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory (LASA), is has huge potential for future applications.

The researchers created this arm after they were inspired by the way humans themselves learn: by imitation and trial and error. The scientists threw several objects in the robot's direction, and the robot created a model for the objects' kinetics based on their trajectories, speeds and rotational movement. After collecting this data, the robot "learned" enough to position itself quickly in the right direction whenever an object was thrown.

So how can this new arm be used? It certainly has a place in space. Already, it's been associated with the Clean-mE project being carried out by the Swiss Space Center. This project aims to develop technologies to recover and dispose of orbiting space debris. This is particularly important as junk continues to collect in Earth's orbit, which can impact missions to space and satellites.

Because the robot can adapt to different objects and situations, it could be a huge boon for capture and collection of debris. As the amount of space trash only grows, this robot could be a major part of cleaning up around our planet.

The findings are published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Robotics.

Want to learn more? Check out the video below, courtesy of YouTube.

See Now: NASA's Juno Spacecraft's Rendezvous With Jupiter's Mammoth Cyclone

©2017 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission. The window to the world of science news.

Join the Conversation

Real Time Analytics