Not everyone can spin a pencil in their hand, and if you can, you should be proud. It’s no easy feat to coordinate that, and it likely took some practice. Part of the reason why this is no easy feat is because the whole thing has to happen quickly. You move the stick, and the force exerted could cause you to lose control of the pencil.
A research group at the University of Washington has created a robot who can pull off this task that even the most dexterous people struggle with. The robotic hand with five fingers works in conjunction with software that allows it to learn from its past experiences.
The hand has an impressive ability to sense force and friction, learning from what it feels, and adjusting to move things it takes hold of. Although it might start out slowly, it will continuously improve.
Thanks to the speed that the hand is able to operate with, it has the ability to spin a stick. And, instead of a scientist teaching the hand how to pull this off, it learns all on its own.
Much like the way a human would learn to spin a stick by thinking about the speed, the way their hand is supposed to move to make it happen, and what has and hasn’t worked in the past, the University of Washington’s robot does the same. It’s a universal approach that allows it to react and respond to its own errors and requires little intervention from humans to make the trick happen.