Arts, Culture & Media

VIDEO: Canadian university students program robot to play hockey


Chris Iverach-Brereton explains the hockey-related abilities of his two-foot tall humanoid robot, Jennifer. Jennifer was created by Iverach-Brereton, a student at the University of Manitoba. (Photo from CBC video.)

Scientists in Canada have trained a "humanoid" robot to do something that comes naturally to most Canadians: play hockey.

Programmers at the University of Manitoba have created a robot, less than two feet tall, named Jennifer and trained her in the basics of playing hockey. She can skate, though not exactly gracefully, she can hit a puck forehand and backhand, though certainly not with the force of an NHL star.

In short, she's a kid, just getting her skates underneath her. And with just a year of development so far, that's to be expected. And while she certainly looks like a robot, she, like many humanoids, bears more than a passing resemblance to the structure of the human body.

Canadian Robot Can Play Hockey
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"Two arms, two legs, normally a head of some sort, neck joints," said Chris Iverach-Brereton, the Manitoba student who programmed Jennifer.

Jennifer is controlled by an actual human, usually Iverach-Brereton, with a laptop nearby.

Jacky Baltes, the professor overseeing Iverach-Brereton's work, is trying to use sports to test the agility of robots. A natural choice for someone who competed for Germany as an Olympic speed skater in the 1980s. 

"Still very much unsolved is uneven surfaces like snow outside, a gravel road or a forest path," he said. "For soccer, for example, I have a dozen motions like turn left, turn right, forward, backward, kick left, kick right."

Jennifer, though, is believed to be the first robot to attempt hockey though.

Jennifer is the university's entry into the 2012 DARWIN-OP Humanoid Appliance Challenge, in the United States in May, the CBC reported.