This Robot Plays Air Hockey

This Robot Plays Air Hockey

Posted On: June 13, 2013
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Japanese researchers at Chiba University’s Namiki Lab have developed an air-hockey robot that can actually compete against human players. Even better, the robot changes its strategy based on its human opponent’s playing style.

The set up involves an air-hockey table, a four-axis robotic arm, two high-speed cameras, and an external PC. The robot tracks the puck and the opponent’s paddle. The position data from the camera images is then processed by the external PC, which determines the robot’s next move. So you might say you are playing against yourself.

The robot tracks the game at 500 frames per second. In a very real sense, the robot is playing the game in Matrix-style bullet-time, because you are so slow compared to it. However, it wouldn’t be sporting to just kick human butt, so the researchers programmed the robot with a three-layer control system. The first layer is responsible for basic motion control of hardware. A second layer decides its short-term strategy. Things like whether it should hit the puck, defend the goal, or stay still. The third layer determines the machine’s long-term strategy. In other words, the third level helps it adapt. If you are playing aggressively, it will too. If you are defensive, it will become defensive. It’s a crazy psychological game at that point. You are playing against yourself, who is also playing against you. crazy.

[Spectrum IEEE]