Robotic device helps golfers with their putts
By Ben Coxworth
August 17, 2011
Golfers, are you still trying to perfect your putt? Well, you could try a five-minute lesson from the RobotPutt machine, have your technique analyzed by the iClub system, or download the iSwing app. Someday soon, you might also be able to use a new system developed by Katherine Kuchenbecker, an assistant professor of Innovation Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at the University of Pennsylvania. Her system guides the user's club into delivering the ball straight to the hole, with the intention that golfers will develop a muscle memory for what it feels like to execute that "perfect putt."
The base of Kuchenbecker's system is a 1.5-meter (4.92-foot) long by 70-centimeter (2.3-foot) wide steel frame, containing a grass-green flat cloth-covered deck that features a practice putting green hole. Standing at the middle of that deck, the player starts by holding a putter with its head at a marked starting position, behind a golf ball. There are four steel cables attached to that head, however, each one running to a separate electric motor in each corner of the frame.
When the player attempts their putt, custom software analyzes their swing through the tension on the cables. As soon as any deviation from a straight swing is detected, the system automatically adjusts the tension to pull the club back into the proper position. The forces that the golfer feels on the club are apparently fairly subtle, yet firm enough to let them know what they should be doing differently.
At the World Haptics Conference that took place in Istanbul in June, Kuchenbecker and her U Pennsylvania colleagues reported that in early tests of the system, a group of five volunteers showed less variation in shot accuracy after training with the system. They now plan on testing with a larger group, adding more degrees of freedom, and on decreasing the cable tension so that users can move the club more freely.
Source: New Scientist