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This Robot Wants to Beat You at Air Hockey

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The air-hockey robot.

A newly developed robot that plays air hockey can change its strategy in response to the playing style of its human opponent.

Credit: Namiki Laboratory

Chiba University researchers have developed an air-hockey robot that can change its strategy in response to the playing style of its human opponent.

Building on the Namiki Lab's work in high-speed tracking, the team has designed a system that consists of an air-hockey table, a Barrett four-axis robotic arm, two high-speed cameras, and an external PC. The system tracks the puck and opponent's paddle, and position data from camera images are then processed by the external PC, which determines the robot's next move. The robot tracks the game at a very fast rate of 500 frames per second.

The researchers designed the robot to observe the speed and position of the player's paddle in relation to the puck, and it uses this data to estimate whether its opponent is playing aggressively or defensively. In experiments, the robot detected playing behaviors, and forced players to change their strategy; players said this made the game more exciting.

So that the game is entertaining for human players, the researchers programmed the robot with a three-layer control system. The first layer controls basic hardware motion, the second decides the device's short-term strategy, and the third ascertains a long-term strategy.

From IEEE Spectrum
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