Boston Robotics Company Challenges CES Attendees to Beer Pong

By Shannon Nargi and Rachel McCubbin
BU News Service

Las Vegas— CES officially opened today in Las Vegas with thousands of exhibitors showing off new products and technologies in innovative – and interactive – ways. So interactive, in fact, that one robot is challenging innocent passersby to a game of beer pong; and beating them nearly every time.

Of course, the point of this robot isn’t just be a good college roommate, but instead to highlight the “soft” robotics technology being developed at Empire Robotics, Inc. The Boston-based company uses this technology to create a ‘bot that can better pick up objects, the Empire co-founder and CTO John Amend said.

The “hand” of the robot is actually a half-sphere shaped ball that is filled with what feels like grains of sand. As in the case of the ping pong ball at CES, the “hand” is able to mold around the ball and use an inner vacuum to suck out air between the grainy material in order to maintain a firm grip, before it’s able to aim and shoot the ping pong ball across the table at a cup. This soft technology makes it possible for the robot to pick up virtually anything it wants because it can mold to the object’s specific shape before lifting.

As for releasing and shooting the ball, this robot is pretty accurate, too. The arm is pre-calibrated to shoot at the center cup 10 times in order to lock down the cup’s location, then slight adjustments are made from there to aim at any surrounding cups. So if you weren’t already impressed, that means that the robot aims at specific cups before shooting, rather than just releasing the ball wherever it can.

The technology can be used commercially in manufacturing, cutting down on tool change time and time of overall production. While it’s in Vegas, however, the robot has seemed to have found its use in the party scene.

For more live updates from Bu News Service at CES 2015, follow out hashtage #bunsces on Twitter

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Posted by: Shannon Nargi on