A creation that is sure to be the bane of all air hockey-obsessed teenagers everywhere, Japanese researchers at Chiba University’s Namiki Laboratory have developed a robot that is skillful, agile, and intelligent enough not only to compete against human players, but to analyze playing styles and use appropriate strategies against its opponents. The Namiki Lab, already known for its work in high-speed tracking, has built on their compiled data and created an agile robot which has the potential, quite insanely, to beat any human at the famous arcade game.
The whole system consists of an air-hockey table (quite obviously), and a four-axis robotic arm that plays the game against its human opponents. The robot’s information input system is made up of two external high-speed cameras, and a PC that reads and analyzes all the data real-time. Previously, these researchers, collaborating with University of Tokyo’s Ishikawa Oku Lab, paired an ultra-fast vision system with a dexterous robot hand that they designed to juggle balls and fold towels – insanely agile for a robotic hand. In this system, the cameras track the puck and opponent’s paddle. The ultimately variable position data from the camera is processed by computer, and determines the robot’s next move.
How is it unbeatable? Think of it this way – the robot is tracking the game at a crazy rate of 500 frames per second. This translates to, from the robot’s point of view, the human opponent moving at a laughably slow pace, like the robot seeing the game in a Matrix-style bullet-time. Apart from that, the computer also uses 3 layers of detection and action systems, using the data from the cameras to decide whether it should hit the puck, defend the goal, or stay still. This system of analyzing data is called 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. Crazy, right?
So what is the robot’s use in the real world? Apart from being a great practice machine for when the Olympics finally accepts air hockey as a formal medal sport, this intelligent and agile robotic hand is actually a building block towards highly agile robots that are able to make intelligent decisions based on what they see in the environment. Yes, start building your war bunker now and stockpile those weapons fast. As you can see from this, it won’t be long now.
[via Daily Telegraph]