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Japanese scientists have created a robot that plays air hockey (video)


Not only have Japanese scientists created an air hockey-playing robot, they have created one that will kick the ever-living crap out of you on the air hockey table.

The robot created by scientists at Chiba University’s Namiki Lab in Japan has the ability to adapt to its opponent’s play, meaning that in a way, it thinks, meaning it has the capacity to own you in air hockey. Isn’t that a violation of Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics”? No? Well, it should be.

How does the robot adapt, outwit and outsmart its human opponents? Simple. By doing a bunch of stuff you have no chance of understanding, that’s how. Via IEEE Spectrum:

To keep the game entertaining for human players, the researchers programmed the robot with a three-layer control system. The first layer is responsible for basic motion control at the hardware level. A second layer decides its short-term strategy—whether it should hit the puck, defend the goal, or stay still—to choose which motion can effectively counter the incoming trajectory of the puck. The third layer determines the machine’s long-term strategy, and this is where things get interesting.

Basically, the robot observes the speed and position of the player’s paddle in relation to the puck. This data can be described by what is known as a Motion Pattern Histogram (MPH). The robot uses this data to estimate whether its opponent is playing aggressively or defensively. Over the course of a game, the robot can detect these MPHs in real-time and compare them with reference patterns to help it figure out what you’re doing.

So in a sense, by detecting and matching a given playing style, the robot isn’t just physically playing the game against you: it’s adding a psychological component to the match. A series of experiments showed that the robot was successful in detecting playing behaviors, and forcing them to change their strategies. As a result, players reported that this made the game more exciting, even if they’re playing against a robot that is likely going to defeat them.

Got it. Okay, no I don’t. So how about we move on to the video of this Robotic Air Hockey Dynamo:

The future is now. It’s like how Skynet became self-aware or something. Only with air hockey, instead of, you know, the eradication of humanity as its ultimate goal.

And I, for one, welcome our new air hockey-playing robot overlords. But if some scientist out there is trying to come up with a foosball-playing robot, well, there’s going to be trouble. We have to draw the line somewhere.

[H/T Puck Daddy]