Badminton-playing robot and energy efficiency software
Founded by AGORIA, the Belgian technology industry federation, and leading mechatronic companies in Flanders, the Mechatronics Technology Centre (FMTC) presented their badminton playing robot back in 2009. Named Jada, the badminton-playing robot is able to intercept and return a shuttlecock (birdie) over the net. They recently used the robot as a platform for their new software application designed to optimize energy efficiency in machine design.
Whatever angle, altitude or speed you pass that birdie over the net, the robot will return it in a place that will have you running to catch up with it. Though it isn’t impossible to outsmart Jada, you would need to be precise and have good reflexes. But if you weren’t that good at badminton, you could try a trick from awhere he played badminton against the Comp–U–Comp computer.
Jada – the first badminton-playing robot
Jada has three motors driven by an electrical control unit, three computers and two cameras. The cameras are used to recognize the shuttlecock and track its movement. The computers calculate the expected trajectory and direct the robot to intercept the shuttlecock. In the video bellow, you can see its promo video from 2010.
The robot is placed on a rail, so it has a limited coverage of the field. You could hit the shuttlecock closer to the net on the robots side and score with ease. If the robot is able to return the shot, a controller combining speed and accuracy to place the robot at the right place by controlling the 5kW 7m (23 feet) long linear motor. The other two 250W brushless DC motors are used to move the racket.
So, if it actually isn’t competitive enough to be used for practice or beat a professional, what is it good for? The robot is actually used to showcase and perfect various technologies that are currently used in industry. The speed at which Jada reaches the shuttlecock is comparable to the speed at which a loom stitches a rug. The accuracy of Jada’s interception corresponds to the precision control of a combine harvester. The intelligence Jada uses to adapt to the motion of the shuttlecock can be compared to press brakes used for folding sheet metal.
Combining badminton-playing robot with software to explore efficiency
Developed as a part of the EU funded research project ESTOMAD, a new computer program is able to detect software and electronics flaws that cause larger energy consumption. FMTC researchers used this software to analyze the badminton robot, and found out that they could half its energy consumption.
Industry has already expressed interest in performing this type of energy efficiency analysis. For example, PICANOL, a key actor in the production of weaving machines, was thus able to cut the energy consumption of their existing machines by 10-15% by adapting the software to its production line. In the future, engineers could use this software for machines even before they are built. Performing a virtual analysis at such an early stage, could provide a very important competitive advantage to industry.
“A virtual approach is always a preferred one. You can even simulate strange conditions; very fast or very high temperatures. In real life those tests are very expensive”, said Tom Boermans, one of the partners in the project and a member of engineering solution consultancy LMS International.