Skip to main content

MIT whiz kids got a robot to take on the viral #BottleCapChallenge

emg lifting bottleCapChallenge delpreto

What do the young, ultra-smart students at MIT’s Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) think about when they’re not hard at work? It turns out that it’s much the same stuff that similarly aged people everywhere think about: namely, the latest time-wasting viral challenge.

This month, that refers to the #BottleCapChallenge, in which a person films themselves removing the cap from a bottle in a jaw-dropping way (most commonly by spin kicking it). So far, it’s been attempted by an assortment of big names, including Conor McGregor, Jason Statham, Mariah Carey, and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Now MIT is getting in on the action by getting its Baxter humanoid robot to have a go. Using some neat mirroring technology, Baxter is able to copy the actions of a human operator who lifts their hand and, while doing so, adds the necessary spin needed to dislodge a bottle cap from the bottle it’s attached to.

“[We] made two important additions to the platform,” MIT CSAIL grad student Joseph DelPreto told Digital Trends. “We created our own soft gripper, which is made from flexible rubber and able to bend around objects like the bottle cap. It also has sensors that can help it determine an object’s shape to be able to better manipulate it. We created a system to control the robot, based on electromyography (EMG) sensors placed on a user’s biceps that monitor muscle activity in real time. We [then] developed algorithms that can continuously process these muscle signals to detect changes in the person’s arm level and allow the robot to mirror that motion or follow nonverbal commands. We used the Baxter robot for this task — but the algorithms to work with a robot using muscle signals could be used with any robot.”

While there are probably more sensible uses for cutting-edge robots than chiming in on the latest internet video challenge, Baxter’s attempt showcases the enormous potential for MIT’s real-time system for collaborative lifting.

“The system works toward creating more natural human-robot interaction during physical tasks by using muscle signals,” DelPreto continued. “We’ve tested it with a variety of team lifting activities, such as picking up objects and doing basic assembly. This could eventually be useful in factories or even around the home, allowing robots to be more effective assistants. As we add more wearable sensors or more learning capabilities, we hope to address more complex manipulation tasks. This #BottleCapChallenge was an interesting example that happened to also be something that lots of people are talking about on social media!”

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
Digital Trends’ Tech For Change CES 2023 Awards
Digital Trends CES 2023 Tech For Change Award Winners Feature

CES is more than just a neon-drenched show-and-tell session for the world’s biggest tech manufacturers. More and more, it’s also a place where companies showcase innovations that could truly make the world a better place — and at CES 2023, this type of tech was on full display. We saw everything from accessibility-minded PS5 controllers to pedal-powered smart desks. But of all the amazing innovations on display this year, these three impressed us the most:

Samsung's Relumino Mode
Across the globe, roughly 300 million people suffer from moderate to severe vision loss, and generally speaking, most TVs don’t take that into account. So in an effort to make television more accessible and enjoyable for those millions of people suffering from impaired vision, Samsung is adding a new picture mode to many of its new TVs.
[CES 2023] Relumino Mode: Innovation for every need | Samsung
Relumino Mode, as it’s called, works by adding a bunch of different visual filters to the picture simultaneously. Outlines of people and objects on screen are highlighted, the contrast and brightness of the overall picture are cranked up, and extra sharpness is applied to everything. The resulting video would likely look strange to people with normal vision, but for folks with low vision, it should look clearer and closer to "normal" than it otherwise would.
Excitingly, since Relumino Mode is ultimately just a clever software trick, this technology could theoretically be pushed out via a software update and installed on millions of existing Samsung TVs -- not just new and recently purchased ones.

Read more
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more