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Hockey-playing robot can stick it to you

Meet Jennifer. She's cute, she's from Canada, and she wants to play hockey. She may be a robot but she's aiming for the Stanley Cup.

Not bad, for a humanoid: Jennifer practices her slapshot.
Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

Here in Canada, you make the best of the long cold winters by getting out there and skiing, skating, testing solar bulbs, and launching Lego men into the stratosphere. Or you build hockey-playing robots.

Jennifer is a DARwin-OP robot from the University of Manitoba's Autonomous Agents Laboratory that can shimmy around on a rink and even stick-handle a bit. She's billed as the first of her kind.

Named after Canadian hockey Olympic medalist Jennifer Botterill, the bot has mini skates, a stick, a Team Canada jersey, and a ball and puck to play with. In the vid below, she shuffles around to the old theme from "Hockey Night in Canada" and you can't beat that.

The piece was put together as a submission to the DARwin-OP Humanoid Application Challenge at IEEE ICRA in May. The robots are open-platform humanoids developed by U.S. universities and sold by Korean firm Robotis.

The challenges facing Chris Iverach-Brereton and colleagues on the University of Manitoba team include getting the robot to hit the puck from a sideways orientation and improving her skating skills. She's not ready to join the Winnipeg Jets just yet.

"We want to improve a great deal and have proper skating and really precise stickhandling," Iverach-Brereton told Postmedia News. "By May, my personal goal is to have the skating down and have (Jennifer) be able to push off one foot and glide."

Supervisor Jacky Baltes, himself a former Olympic speedskater, has been involved with the RoboCup robot soccer competition. Will the Canuck puckheads take a page from the robot World Cup?

If a robot hockey league is indeed in the offing, Jennifer already has a Canadian teammate with a 110 mph slapshot.

Doubtless one day they'll be wresting Lord Stanley's Cup from our cold, dead hockey-gloved hands.

(Via Robots Dreams)