In 1996, when supercomputer Deep Blue beat the world’s greatest chess player, Gary Kasparov, we opened the door for machines to not only take the place human beings, but to surpass us with cold logic and massive processing power. In 2012, humanity is on the road to losing another game to the superior programming of a machine. That’s right – there’s a machine that’s better than you at ping pong.
Robotics experts at Germany’s Technical University of Darmstadt have created a robot arm that learns to adapt its game as it plays. Like the Highlander, this arm will inevitably absorb the skills of the world’s greatest ping-pong players, becoming an unstoppable force to be worshipped by anyone holding a paddle.
Katharina Muelling and her team attached the robot arm to the ceiling, and attached a camera to watch and analyze the game. Slowly but surely, the team taught the arm to play ping pong by feeding it increasingly difficult shots. Eventually, the arm was able to use the information from the motions it had been taught to generate its own shots. By taking everything it learned, the arm has been able to create idealized answers to scenarios that it had never been trained to respond to.
Although other robots have been successfully programmed to play ping pong, this one is the first to “learn” the game. From the sound of things, it also sounds like the best player yet. After only an hour of practice, the robot arm was successfully returning 88% of shots. I’ve been playing the game for years and I don’t hit that many shots. (Then again, I’m pretty bad at ping-pong.
[via New Scientist]
Image courtesy of University of Texas
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This article originally published at Geekosystem
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