Back in 1997, Toshiba unveiled the Beach Volley Ball Playing Robot as part of their vision for human-friendly robots (Toshiba believes that robots will be commonplace in homes and hospitals in the future). It’s an old (but fun) project which seems to have grown from Toshiba’s industrial robots built for maintaining power lines and nuclear power plants.
The Beach Volley Ball playing robot has no lower body, so in order to move it is suspended from a pendulum. The cameras inside its head detect the colored volley balls in the white play room at 60 frames per second. A human opponent commands the robot to play a game, and to use a specific ball. Once the correct ball has been located, it can pick it up and serve to a human opponent.
By measuring the distance from itself and the ball using stereo depth perception, the robot can successfully predict when and where it needs to move its arm to return the ball. Its other hand is used for a friendly post-game hand-shake. Toshiba has continued to develop human friendly robot technology, such as their Apripoco and ApriAttenda robots.