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Robot Dominates Air Hockey, Adapts To Opponents' Playing Style

timothy posted about a year ago | from the bet-on-the-robot-kid dept.

AI 49

colinneagle writes "Researchers at Chiba University in Japan have developed a robot that could frustrate teenagers worldwide with its impressive air hockey skills. What's remarkable about this air hockey-playing robot, which is not the first of its kind, is that it can sense human opponents' playing styles and adapt to defend against them. The key is how the computer controlling the robot views its opponent — at a speed of 500 frames per second. From there, the robot uses a three-layer control system to determine motion control, when it should hit the puck, defend its goal or stay still, and a third that determines how it should react to its opponent's playing style."

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Robotic Pong (4, Funny)

sidevans (66118) | about a year ago | (#44013695)

It's only 41 years late...

Re:Robotic Pong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014871)

How could the robot NOT lose if it can sense and adjust every 2ms?

Re:Robotic Pong (2)

ranton (36917) | about a year ago | (#44016965)

I know that people often underestimate how hard it is to program a good AI, but playing air hockey does not seem like a difficult AI problem. Once you are able to track the trajectory of the puck then you should never allow a goal as long as the reaction time is good enough. And with enough power you could hit the puck at the maximum speed that would not cause it to launch, and at angles where a human will have a harder time determining the target than the computer.

Its a good project for college students to learn robotics and AI, but it doesn't really look like interesting research.

Re:Robotic Pong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027659)

41 years? How do you know, what do you mean?

The Art of War (0)

RudyHartmann (1032120) | about a year ago | (#44013697)

Didn't Sun Tzu figure this out a zillion years ago? If only we could adopt this to more of this issues of life.

Re: The Art of War (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014025)

This has to be the dumbest comment I've read on slashdot. Trying for first post?

Re: The Art of War (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014289)

We see the world from our own level of perspective I guess.

Re: The Art of War (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44014923)

The original post could have been dropped on almost any story and be just as irrelevant.

Robot vs Robot! (3, Interesting)

hedley (8715) | about a year ago | (#44013715)

3... 2... 1.. Fight!

Re:Robot vs Robot! (4, Funny)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#44014235)

3... 2... 1.. Fight!

(sound of crickets in the background: each of the robots waits the other's action to have something to react to).

Re:Robot vs Robot! (2)

crakbone (860662) | about a year ago | (#44014293)

The only winning move is not to play.

Re:Robot vs Robot! (1)

scorpio.pkt (2933761) | about a year ago | (#44015893)

What fun would it be watching robots play? I mean- Dont we lose out on all the fun when there are machines battling it out there? Why cant such "BRILLIANT" scientists make inventions that would benefit someone at least??

Re:Robot vs Robot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44025645)

It would be fun because it would pit the engineering and programming skills of the design teams against each other. I for one would like to see it happen--there are non-trivial issues of fast image recognition and precise high-speed mechanics. Seeing a contest pitting solutions for these problems against each other is entertaining to me, but of course I'm a geek.

Oh, and the technology that would be developed by this hypothetical contest could have applications in other areas, for example self-driving cars, manufacturing techniques, weapons systems, etc. etc. Any contest or goal that drives excellence in technology is beneficial to humanity. Okay, maybe not chemical warfare technology, but you get my point.

only 3 layers? (0)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year ago | (#44013721)

phht, noobs

looks like it blocks if it would go to the hole (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44013725)

that's like, brilliant.

but why the need for a robot to demonstrate this? would be more fun as an online game demonstration. more accessible at least.

Re:looks like it blocks if it would go to the hole (4, Funny)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#44013769)

To loosely paraphrase: Any sufficiently advanced AI would be indistinguishable from cheating.

Re:looks like it blocks if it would go to the hole (5, Funny)

simonbp (412489) | about a year ago | (#44014233)

The next challenge is a robot that drunkenly argues about the rules for three hours after just 10 minute of gameplay.

Re:looks like it blocks if it would go to the hole (1)

jovius (974690) | about a year ago | (#44015759)

...and which would constantly talk you down because of its ability to analyze your lip movements 500 frames per second and so know what you are going to say next...

Re:looks like it blocks if it would go to the hole (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014245)

To loosely paraphrase: Any sufficiently advanced AI would be indistinguishable from cheating.

It's not kosher in two ways, it's protecting a very small area, it returns the puck as it can
and guards the goal very efficiently; it's fall back (default) is center of goal there's not enough room to get it past.
People who play like this are not treated friendly as they just guard and hope for a lucky return shot.
There's no real skill, ie: your just beating yourself.

I would also imagine being a machine it's very rigid; your not going to force it out of the way to slip one through.

I remember when air hockey first came out, I was good then and still consider myself unbeatable at least I've
played a lot and powned em all. I'd really like to play this machine, I think I could beat it if it didn't guard the way it does,
it's as close to a cheat as you can get in air hockey.

Re:looks like it blocks if it would go to the hole (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014687)

it's fall back (default) is center of goal there's not enough room to get it past.

Um, yes there is. You're not really that good if you think guarding the center is similar to cheating.

Re:looks like it blocks if it would go to the hole (1)

EETech1 (1179269) | about a year ago | (#44016617)

Let it guard the hole, and I'll whip its shiny metal arm with my spinning bank shot. Every Single Time!

Re:looks like it blocks if it would go to the hole (4, Funny)

dubdays (410710) | about a year ago | (#44014319)

Yeah, sounds like fun...a robot that whips my ass at air hockey every single time. What will they come up with next? A robot that chases me down with nunchucks and just beats the shit out of me? Woo hoo!

Re:looks like it blocks if it would go to the hole (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014441)

Yeah, sounds like fun...a robot that whips my ass at air hockey every single time. What will they come up with next? A robot that chases me down with nunchucks and just beats the shit out of me? Woo hoo!

How about... a robot that whips your ass?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y459rlx9tXI [youtube.com]

Re:looks like it blocks if it would go to the hole (1)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about a year ago | (#44019565)

Sounds like a sex toy.

Re:looks like it blocks if it would go to the hole (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44016845)

A robot that chases me down with nunchucks and just beats the shit out of me?

I would pay to see that.

Re:looks like it blocks if it would go to the hole (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44017849)

YOU signed an NDA, sir!

YOU be QUIET about my robot Chuck Norris!

Too fast sampling rate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44013883)

Hmm, 50 frames a second should be enough. It sounds like a student project where they haven't learned the basics of sampling techniques yet.

Re:Too fast sampling rate (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | about a year ago | (#44014189)

Maybe it's cheaper to sample a lot, rather than to sample less and extrapolate accelerations. They probably get away with a simpler prediction algorithm when their data points are so dense. Or maybe, the way the puck moves in air hockey is more sensitive to initial (impact) conditions than you realize. I'm guessing that in the 50th of a second before you hit the puck, you can do a lot of things to significantly affect its trajectory. Anyway, maybe that's what they discovered as they built this system - something about the game itself.

Re: Too fast sampling rate (1)

edremy (36408) | about a year ago | (#44014839)

Actually, 50 fps is probably not enough. When my son and I get going we can get the puck from one side to the other in substantially less than fifth of a second. Given that the robot probably needs to start moving very quickly after the opponent hits the puck you'd only have a couple of frames to work with at that speed. Half the time when I lose a point I haven't even seen the puck before it's in the goal. (Getting hit by a flying puck at those speeds hurts like hell. I thought I broke my finger once)

Re:Too fast sampling rate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015023)

Maybe it's faster because they want their robot to be virtually unbeatable? It certainly helps if it always seems like the opponent is playing in slow-motion given the robot's sense of perception.

Now if they wanted it to be more fair, then sure, a lower sampling rate would make more sense. It would be around your number because fom what I've heard, the average human percieves things somewhere around 1/60 of a second. Most people with seemingly faster responses than that (such as athletes) tend to be good at predicting what's going to happen based on what little they do see.

It can be beaten (1)

Davo Batty (2855025) | about a year ago | (#44014053)

You just have to hack it.

Ahh, the memories... (2)

BananaBender (958326) | about a year ago | (#44014121)

Shufflepuck Cafe [wikipedia.org] , anybody?

Re:Ahh, the memories... (2)

Dan East (318230) | about a year ago | (#44014205)

Yes, thank you. Playing that game 20+ years ago taught me the futility of playing certain kinds of games against a computer. Eventually I could beat the hardest player (on occasion), but at that point it was very obvious that was only because the computer AI was purposefully imperfect. If I could hit a dozen or more perfect hits then eventually the computer would allow one to score.

With this robot player the entire difficulty is overcoming whatever physical limitations exist in the hardware. It would have to account for lag and speed constraints in the mechanism it controls, but beyond that, I would fully expect it to be able to be nearly impossible for a human to score against it. I had enough trouble against a 7MHz Amiga in 1990, so I can only imagine what a modern quad core is capable of.

Re:Ahh, the memories... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44014451)

I had enough trouble against a 7MHz Amiga in 1990, so I can only imagine what a modern quad core is capable of.

Just be glad you didn't play on a mac. The game was just as hard, but the macs didn't actually have any graphics acceleration (unlike the Amiga) so they couldn't actually keep up and you'd get rectangles around the puck and paddles and crap like that. You'd see the same crap in crystal quest.

What led Apple to make a graphics-only computer with no graphics acceleration is beyond me. What led people to ignore the Amiga in favor of the Mac is even further beyond me — originally, they had similar software bases.

Re:Ahh, the memories... (2)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | about a year ago | (#44016395)

24-bit color QuickDraw accelerated video cards were released for NuBus Macs. The lack of graphics acceleration likely wasn't a problem before that when you only had a 512x384 1-bit video "standard". The Amiga's custom chips couldn't handle 640x480x256 colors worth a damn, that mode on a stock AGA machine is slower then a crappy ISA SVGA card with no acceleration.

Re:Ahh, the memories... (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44017491)

24-bit color QuickDraw accelerated video cards were released for NuBus Macs.

I know, because (heh heh) my mom had a Mac IIci with an 8*24 card, but not the really accelerated one, just the slightly accelerated one. Meaning, it would do color quickdraw, but it wouldn't do it very quickly. But an Amiga with a Retina board would spank the Mac every time, and with an Emplant board and some Mac ROMs it would also spank the Mac at being a Mac at a lower total cost. For example, an Amiga 2500 (a 2000 with an accelerator) with an Emplant had the same CPU as a Mac IIci but would consistently win MacOS benchmarks against the same system. And the Emplant gave you some Mac ports in the bargain.

The fact is that the classic macs provided tragically little hardware for the day, let alone for the cost.

Am I the only one? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014149)

Am I the only one who can see that the robot missed a puck at the end of the video? I can clearly see the puck hitting the back border!

Re:Am I the only one? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#44014249)

Am I the only one who can see that the robot missed a puck at the end of the video? I can clearly see the puck hitting the back border!

Many times actually, but not inside the goal area.

Adapt to this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44014191)

/me spills soda into the robot's exposed electronics...

We need more good game robots! (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | about a year ago | (#44014207)

The Japanese have solved air hockey. Now I'm waiting for Koreans to create the perfect AI computer to play Starcraft 2. (And I'm not talking about this guy [teamliquid.net] .) The AI that comes with the game is inexcusably pathetic.

Won't last long after... (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#44014403)

Shawn Thornton kicks its shiny metal ass.

Is nothing sacred anymore?!!! (2)

Alejux (2800513) | about a year ago | (#44014477)

Next thing you know, robots will beat us at Foosball! We can't let this happen!

Looks like it dominates defense (1)

Adult film producer (866485) | about a year ago | (#44014525)

but can the robot go on the offensive?

Re:Looks like it dominates defense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44015095)

Considering that humans have 100 ms of lag, the fact that this thing can't score is pathetic. A good robot opponent would fling its arm out at high speed to intersect the path of the puck at the first moment the rules of the game allow, so as to impart as much energy as possible into the puck while minimizing the distance the puck will travel before it is in the goal, such that this all occurs before it's measly human opponent has a chance to notice that anything happened.

Choice of games (1)

Jiro (131519) | about a year ago | (#44015225)

In air hockey the puck moves on a two dimensional surface. This makes this game exceptionally easy for robots because they don't need to do complicated three dimensional calculations that would be needed to hit and aim a ball moving in the air. Furthermore, since the puck is hit with a round mallet, it's going to be fairly easy to compute where the puck will go after it's been hit--something that won't work even with a game as simple as foosball, never mind table tennis.

So this is much less impressive than it sounds.

I'm sure it was called Mac Something. (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#44015673)

One of my favorite Mac games was an air hockey one with various robot opponents.

This robot, assuming it even can lose, is just a few months of speedup away from being fast enough to block any possible human strike. For offense, they would probably have to speed limit it from hitting 200mph shots and ace every time.

Good Proje (0)

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Guaranteed win (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44042643)

Just tell the robot that everything you say is a lie.

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