Oct. 11, 2011
Yesterday afternoon in Zhikong Building, a table tennis match caught attention of faculty and students there. They were all staring at the two players at the tennis table – not graduate students, but twin brothers of humanoid robots!
They are called “Wu” and “Kong”, put together to make the name of Monkey King. They are the latest humanoid robots developed by Institute of Cyber-Systems and Control, Zhejiang University. Since 2007, the institute has been working on a key 863 project “high-performance humanoid robot unit and system”. The two table tennis player aforementioned are the representative works of this project.
When one picked up the ball and served it, the other immediately struck it back. They seem to play with inexhaustible strength and passion, with forehand and backhand, hitting the ball to and fro with dozens of rounds.
One of the developers introduced, “At the beginning of the project, there have been some large-scale humanoid robots in the world, such as beverage delivering robots, baseball receiving robots. We hoped our robots can do more complex actions with better interaction with the environment and Chinese characteristics. Then we came up with table tennis player robots. This sport calls for a continuous speedy response which in turn is a big challenge to the control speed and precision.”
The two robots demonstrate some advanced robotic technology incorporated in to the design: their bodies are made of high-strength lightweight materials; 30 motors on the 30 joints take on independent duties; the arm alone can move with seven different actions. Zhejiang University’s first international industrial automation standard with independent intellectual property rights EPA was applied to the development of the robots. The robots are designed with outstanding capabilities of accurate identification, location prediction, motion modeling and balance. Even with acceleration in racket waving, Wu and Kong are rock solid.
The research and development personnel of this project are a group of big fans in robotics. They joined Zhejiang University Robotics Competition Base in undergraduate years, developed small size humanoid robots “Wukong”, “Wuneng”, “WUjing” which made extraordinary achievements in ROBOCUP. Zhu Qiuguo, one of the developers, commented that the excitement of robot research lied in turning dreams into reality and seeing improvements. Sometimes the robots can just behave beyond imagination!