A robot might soon be a champion at the block-stacking game Jenga.
A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has created a robot that has the capability of carefully pulling out blocks without toppling the Jenga tower. For the uninitiated, the aim of the game is to carefully extract a block and place it at the top of a tower of 54 rectangular blocks that are stacked in 18 layers of three blocks each.
MIT’s invention is able to see and feel the blocks and the tower with the help of an external camera, a soft-pronged gripper, a force-sensing wrist cuff. According to an MIT statement, it “learns” in real time, using visual and tactile feedback.
Of course, that’s not all the robot is intended for in the long haul. Alberto Rodriguez from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the university said the robot could be used in tasks that need careful physical interaction, including assembling consumer products and separating recyclable objects from landfill trash.
“In a cellphone assembly line, in almost every single step, the feeling of a snap-fit, or a threaded screw, is coming from force and touch rather than vision,” Rodriguez said. “Learning models for those actions is prime real-estate for this kind of technology.”