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Deep Green - A Pool Playing Robot?

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the bank-shot dept.

Robotics 120

o0zi writes "A Canadian scientist has created another game-playing machine, designed for a far simpler purpose than chess: playing pool. The world's first pool-playing robot consists of a slim box that glides along tracks above a pool table, and shoots using a camera-guided cue. Deep Green pots only half the shots it plans for - supposedly the same as a below average player - but this is expected to improve."

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Poll: WHICH IS BETTER (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907649)

Vote for: [calcgames.org] ceren [satindeath.net]
Vote for: [calcgames.org] perdida [img66.exs.cx]
Vote for: [calcgames.org] perdida's sister [upenn.edu]
Vote for: [calcgames.org] mercatur [mercatur.net]
Vote for: [calcgames.org] taco's wife [cmdrtaco.net]
Vote for: [calcgames.org] cowboyneal [everything2.com]
Vote for: [calcgames.org] rustina [img28.exs.cx]

Screw Deep Green! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907668)

Deep Ceren, I say!

PERHAPS THE MORE IMPORTANT QUESTION (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907780)

Who is the bloated sack of shit standing next to her, and how did a hideous man/cake depository like that get her to pose with him?

Re:PERHAPS THE MORE IMPORTANT QUESTION (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907826)

Yeah, goddamn. This is outrageous!

Unfortunately, I didn't see her at Defcon this year, but next year I'll ask for a photo too. If that sack of lard can get one, so can I.

Depends if it is a pool table at a tavern.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907658)

..even the most drunk person can't miss shots with oversized pockets....

Not so easy? (2, Interesting)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907661)

My first thought was that it should be very easy to get a higher percentage of shots, but I guess that a lot of shots require 'english' to make, probably something that is not easily computed.

Having recently tried snooker for the first time, I can appreciate the difficulty!

Re:Not so easy? (1)

Sad Mephisto (766703) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907683)

All "english" shots can be computed - there's no problem with that. All computer games can do that.

There are some differences between the physical model and the real table (like friction of the air, non-ideality of the table and so on), of course. But who wants to play with a perfect opponent?

Re:Not so easy? (1)

dnahelix (598670) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907765)

... not to mention The Uncertainty Principle.

Re:Not so easy? (1)

aceat64 (706106) | more than 9 years ago | (#9909553)

The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa.
--Heisenberg, uncertainty paper, 1927


That wouldn't really apply here because when all the balls are stopped their momentum is (relative to the table) basically 0. So the position could be determined almost perfectly (depending on the equipment of course). Besides the Uncertainty Principle doesn't apply to calculating a shot.

Re:Not so easy? (3, Insightful)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908214)

I played snooker at a fairly high level for a while (I could break over a 100 periodically) and regularly ran 40 to 70 point breaks.

That said, I agree that the 'english', the spin placed on the ball will be a challenge. Especially if they wish to play on snooker tables as opposed to eight or nine ball tables. The correct cloth for a snooker table has a directional nap (kind of like the effect of velvet... if you brush it one way it raises up, the other way, it lays flat), while the cloth on an eight or nine ball table does not. Having a directional nap affects how the ball travels on the table depending on whether you are shooting up or down the table, or diaganally across. The nap is even on the cloth on the rails and affects how the ball 'throws' off the cushion. So the spin (siding, tops, bottoms, stun, etc.) probably challenges the programmers quite a bit. You can compute that reaction, but it will be different again when playing on the directionaless nap of an eight or nine ball table. And in either type, the age of the cloth will play a role in how the ball travels.

Of course this can all be programmed in. But how difficult/interesting it will be. I would think it will be kind of like trying to program a robot to walk on two legs with the floor tilting every now and then. The robot has to dynamically compensate for environment as well as do the 'simple' mathimatical calculations of the angle of the shot... which is probably not so simple, simce they are trying to factor in 'position' as well. (Position: like playing shape, but thinking more than one ball ahead.)

I wonder if they have figured out how it is to react when the competitor spills a beer on the table? Or tries to stiff you on the bet? Now those are some challenging environmental variables. :-)

Re:Not so easy? (1)

jewps (800552) | more than 9 years ago | (#9909207)

You make a great point in regards to the nap of the cloth. Now would a robot like this take the speed of the cloth into consideration? How will it compensate for different tables as each table plays differently?

Something tells me the game of snooker will be harder to program than say chess simply because there are a lot of unknown variables. Most of the time when I play snooker, I go by feel and instinct, which may or may not be correct.

Most importantly, how does that robot chalk up the cue? hehe

I love the game of snooker but I'm a long ways from mastering it, I constantly breaks in the 30's-40's so as you can tell, I'm not that great but I love the game, its just one of those games that you may never be able to master.

What's really needed is... (5, Funny)

andy666 (666062) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907662)

a pool CLEANING robot.

or at least something that can clean for me.

Re:What's really needed is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907753)

a pool CLEANING robot.

Cleaning robot? Cleaning ROBOT? CLEANING ROBOT! aaaahhhh!

I found one! (1)

JThundley (631154) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907784)

Right Here! [epinions.com]

Re:What's really needed is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9908004)

I have come to clean ze pool!

Re:What's really needed is... (2, Informative)

iantri (687643) | more than 9 years ago | (#9909877)

I know this was a joke.. but they really do exist.

In fact, there is one cleaning my pool right now. Depending on the design, it may or may not work very well -- mine uses the suction of the pump system to generate a "jerking motion", which moves the vacuum around the bottom. It, however, tends to go in predictable patterns (moving the hose around helps a bit) and stirs up a lot of the dirt before sucking it up.

Mine is similar to this model. [epinions.com]

Far simpler? In ways... (4, Insightful)

danamania (540950) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907663)

A Canadian scientist has created another game-playing machine, designed for a far simpler purpose than chess: playing pool.

Far simpler perhaps, in ways. The strategy behind a pool game might be easier compared to chess, but there's nothing physical in chess that needs simulating. That's a whole new ball game (ha!) for a computer/robot over a chess simulation.

This looks up there with the research into teaching robots to walk, scale stairs & run. Good solid research sure, but I wouldn't go putting it down by comparing it to a chess simulation.

Less Recognition (4, Interesting)

mfh (56) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907695)

Also there is less recognition for shots in pool because strategies are different compared to where you play. The base rules system is easier than chess, but you have near-infinite possibilities for aligning shots, taking shots and winning. If you're playing someone who can sink the table on a streak, the robot had better be able to do the same. Plus there's breaking... does the bot know how to break a rack and sink a couple each time? If not, it's not a very good pool bot, whereas it doesn't take much these days to create a chess bot that is *amazing* at chess by even pro standards. They have all the stats from previous games to go by. Stats won't help a robot with billiards, as there are no coordinates recorded to base new calulations on. Perhaps there *should* be? I think it would be fairly easy to record coords from each pro game from this day forward and the billiards industry should invent a table that does it. That would be awesome for so many reasons.

Re:Less Recognition (4, Interesting)

danamania (540950) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907707)

Stats won't help a robot with billiards, as there are no coordinates recorded to base new calulations on. Perhaps there *should* be? I think it would be fairly easy to record coords from each pro game from this day forward and the billiards industry should invent a table that does it. That would be awesome for so many reasons.

On top of the stats like this - not every pool table is identical. Chess is purely a logical game, where the table in pool may differ according to how old the table is, the humidity, the air pressure, temperature, how clean your balls are, the cue tip (chalking anyone?).

You might have a robot that can be perfect at a game played on a known surface, but that'll only be the one table it's built for. That's where having the bot work as an adaptable machine would come into play.

ROTF (1)

mfh (56) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907718)

> how clean your balls are

Mine are pretty clean. How about yours?

Re:Far simpler? In ways... (1)

Barto (467793) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908016)

I agree, in fact I'd say that making a pool playing robot is much more complex than making a chess program - all the engineering involved to actually getting it working.

But because of the simpler tactics (basic physics), building a world-beating pool robot would, I'm sure you'd agree, be easier than building a world-beating chess program like Deep Blue.

So I'd say you CAN compare it in terms of difficulty to chess simulation - getting it working harder, getting it working well easier. I'm sure the submitter was referring to the effort involved in Deep Blue vs Deep Green and realises the difference between the two :)

Re:Far simpler? In ways... (1)

Q2Serpent (216415) | more than 9 years ago | (#9909887)

You are kidding, right? Walking, running, and climbing stairs require much more than simply striking a cue ball with a cue, even if you include using english on the ball.

3 points... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907676)

Wouldn't an overhead camera have worked a lot better and been simpler to make, not to mention not violating the rule about sitting on the table?

Re:3 points... (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908737)

As long as the bot has one foot on the floor, it's still legal. :-)

Chalk (4, Funny)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907677)

At last: a pool opponent who doesn't spend the entire match distracting you by chalking their cue!

Re:Chalk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907687)

chalking their cue!

Is there some hidden euphemism there?

Re:Chalk (1)

nebulus4 (799015) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907693)

At last: a pool opponent who doesn't spend the entire match distracting you by chalking their cue! And what makes you think he [robot] is not going to chalk his cue?

Re:Chalk (2, Funny)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907892)

At last: a pool opponent who doesn't spend the entire match distracting you by chalking their cue!

But what if he constantly distracts you with small talk, and he sounds just like Stephen Hawking?

Vs Humans (3, Funny)

ubera (107426) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907689)

I wonder if it will be able to beat Kasparov?

Re:Vs Humans (1)

nebulus4 (799015) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907719)

I wonder if it will be able to beat Kasparov?

Doh! A robot swinging with a cue and Kasparov trying to defend himself with a chessboard... oh it will beat him, alright!

Ever seen Blade Runner? (2, Interesting)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907698)

Ofcourse you have...
Interesting question: could you ever be truly happy with a 'copy-cat' human-like robot (or dog, cat) as a partner/friend, that looks like, smells like, behaves like a real human?

Personally, I will always prefer the real thing, flesh and blood, but a good copy could be fun company...

Re:Ever seen Blade Runner? (1)

Fallen Andy (795676) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907777)

If it was so similar or even subtly different why would you consider it *less* than you. The whole point of replicants is that they are *slaves*. Slavery is alive and well despite centuries of fighting it.

Personally, I'm all in favour of alienness in my life.
It's why I live here in Greece. It isn't the UK or US. (we also have better food).

If you're looking for a slave (presumably of the sexual variety) then since your'e a slash dotter you ought to be able to code one...

Re:Ever seen Blade Runner? (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907864)

Interesting question: could you ever be truly happy with a 'copy-cat' human-like robot (or dog, cat) as a partner/friend, that looks like, smells like, behaves like a real human?

Yeah, I think so. If it behaves the same, does it matter if it's artificial?

Personally, I'd be pretty damn pleased even if all it ever said was 'chii!'

Re:Ever seen Blade Runner? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9909472)

-1 Allusion to bad anime

Re:Ever seen Blade Runner? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9908291)

Considering that I have a hard time finding a "real thing" companion, yes, I'd be really happy with a robotic substitute. I'm sure a lot of people will find me weird for having such a companion, but I'll just go and hang out with the crowd that doesn't think that way and be happy.

There is way too many people who dismiss things simply because they're new. These folks won't stop others from using the new stuff and eventually making the world a better place, they just add negativity and make life a bit sadder for everybody.

Re:Ever seen Blade Runner? (1)

davidfromoz (801492) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908742)

And if its sufficiently human to satisfy you, can it be happy with you? And does it have the choice?

Sucky robots (5, Funny)

Zorilla (791636) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907699)

Now they only need to make a robot that sucks at golf. Of course, important aspects of the design will include a synthesized "FUCK! God DAMMIT! Stupid fucking sandtrap!" on 50% of shots made.

Re:Sucky robots (1)

Jhan (542783) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908348)

Now they only need to make a robot that sucks at golf.

Ask an ye shall recieve. Lego golf robots. [www.hh.se]

.

Re:Sucky robots (1)

mhesseltine (541806) | more than 9 years ago | (#9909438)

Now they only need to make a robot that sucks at golf. Of course, important aspects of the design will include a synthesized "FUCK! God DAMMIT! Stupid fucking sandtrap!" on 50% of shots made.

Don't forget the helicopter-style club launcher that can hurl a 3 wood further than the ball you just shanked.

Deep green homepage (0, Redundant)

Gandalfar (599790) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907713)

here [queensu.ca] is a homepage of an author of the project which also includes a picture of a robot.

Re:Deep green homepage (0, Offtopic)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907860)

MOD PARENT DOWN. This karma-whore just posted the link in the /. blurb...

Re:Deep green homepage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907878)

Is this a joke? Parent posted the exact same link found in the Slashdot story... nothing informative about it.

Re:Deep green homepage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907890)

You must be new around here. That's called karma-whoring, i.e. fooling moderators, who mostly never read the post or check it's real added value, into moderating the post up.

OLD News by decades! (what about Silent Running!) (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907722)

OLD News by decades! (what about Silent Running!)

In the movie it features and shows the first billiards playing robot. Mind you it was no doubt laboriously programmed to take its shots using CADCAM coordinates rather than optical feedback.

But it was first... in early 1970's.

Of course 3D chess by Lucas in Star Wars years later out classed the entertainment on the ship Valely Forge in Silent Running.

I can't believe I am the first to point this out here, and I'm not even a true uber geek of techie culture.

The first? (1)

wookyhoo (700289) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907730)

I know that some engineers at my Uni (Adelaide University) made the same kind of thing a few years back. I don't know too many details (or a webpage), but it was about as good as this one appears to be.

Re:The first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907751)

1971 : the pool robot Silent Running, try to beat THAT.

true simulation (2, Funny)

ctime (755868) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907735)

Where's the 'aimjuice' aka beer intakes on this baby? Not to mention, does it smoke and enjoy country music as well? What about karaoke!?

ALL IM ASKING IS THAT IT PARTICIPATE WITH THE REST OF US HUMANS.

Mod me down as robot-insensitive.

Horizon snooker robot (4, Informative)

rjforster (2130) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907740)

Any British /.ers remember a Horizon[1] episode where they built a snooker playing robot. Must have been 10/15 years ago now. Played on a reduced size table with fewer balls (10 rather than 15 reds IIRC). The gantry for the robo-cue included steel pillars at the corners of the table, thus making it really hard for the human competitor.

[1] Horizon is a science program on BBC2.

Re:Horizon snooker robot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907759)

10 or 15 years!!! HA! The americans in the 1971 film Silent Running on the ship Valley Forge beat you by over another 15 years before your BBC item.

1971!

Re:Horizon snooker robot (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907776)

Horizon is a documentary/science program in the UK, Silent Running is fiction.

Re:Horizon snooker robot (2, Funny)

rjforster (2130) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907827)

You forgot to metion that Huey, Duey and Louie on Valley Forge also made far better gardeners than any snooker/pool playing robot ever would. Well, one of them did by the end of the film, the others probably would have too, given the chance.
I'd have really been put in my place by that had you thought to mention it.

Re:Horizon snooker robot (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907781)

Like the other replier, I think it was longer than 15 years. More like 20 years I would say.

And I'm sure I saw it on Tomorrows World not Horizon. Maybe the presenters were the same and I'm not remembering correctly.

I do remember a huge flow-diagram that was used to help program the code; a huge roll of paper that covered a whole wall. I've written webpages with more logic than that... :)

BBC/Bristol University snooker robot 1986-1988 (1)

Wills (242929) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908089)


The world's first snooker playing robot was the subject of a QED programme shown on 16th March 1988 on BBC TV in which the 1988 world snooker champion, Steve Davis, played and won a match against the robot. I helped to develop the image-processing software for the robot's vision system. The research project ran from 1986-1988 and was funded by BBC TV. There is further information about the project here. [slashdot.org]

Re:Horizon snooker robot (1)

Archibald Buttle (536586) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908591)

Yeah, I remember that.

Snooker's a much harder game than pool, since the table is larger, the pockets smaller, and there's more balls on the table to start with. The robot on Horizon could actually play a real game, following the rules or snooker, and making intelligent shots with positioning.

From the article it sounds like this pool playing robot is pretty crummy right now. They hilight its strength as being able to pot the white in any pocket, but make it clear that it has trouble potting any coloured ball. Whether it can actually play a game isn't clear - I get the impression though that it's not programmed yet to put english on the ball.

Whilst this might technically be the first pool playing robot that's only because the British robot that came before it was never reprogrammed to play pool. Maybe the brits should resurrect their old creation and challenge these guys to a game. :-)

Might it be possible... (1)

mikeophile (647318) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907744)

to use genetic algorithms to improve the robocue efficiency?

Maybe toss in a little fuzzy logic for good measure.

Re:Might it be possible... (1)

nebulus4 (799015) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907783)

I think the more general term Evolutionary Algorithms [cmu.edu] would be more appropriate here, as Evolution Strategy [cmu.edu] would also apply to what you're suggesting.

Re:Might it be possible... (1)

mikeophile (647318) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907819)

Thank you very much for the clarification. I wish every reply to my posts could be as erudite.

Re:Might it be possible... (1)

Fallen Andy (795676) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907792)

GA's tend to produce programs which out slimy hack the ultimate slimy hacker. They exploit areas we don't even know are slimy hacks. But this makes them horribly fragile - the same program *won't* do well if the input params change.

I like GA's. But they are no substitute for the painful process of writing real programs painfully.

One day when we have "computers" (read 10K+ nodes
parallel processing with terabyte memory) we will
idly fiddle with these things to hose people in deathmatches...

I wish I had to eat these words (yummy letter e).

Re:Might it be possible... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9908019)

You forgot to suggest neural nets. Add in bayesian networks, simulated annealing, an expert system, Lisp, Prolog, and mind.forth, and you'll be able to convince any AI groupie that the thing is intelligent. Even if it misses the cue ball 90 % of the time.

linux (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907749)

But does it run linux?

Simpler eh? (4, Informative)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907803)

designed for a far simpler purpose than chess: playing pool.

This comment shows the poster has no idea what playing pool is about.

It's more than just line up / aim at the center of the ball / shoot more or less hard : you have to pot the ball, yes, but you also have to replace your white ball so that the next shot is easier. Often you have to think 2, 3, 4 shots ahead. Often you plan your entire game before playing the first shot.

In order to control the white ball, there's a certain about of spin to give it on the vertical plan and horizontal plan (english) so that the ball is deflected differently on the cushion(s), depending on the angle they arrive. Giving english to a ball also deflect its path (it won't roll straight), so that has to be accounted for in the aiming (you aim a little off). And then all tables don't react the same, some have newer, less "grabby" cloths than others... Then there's the roughness of the cue tie and the chalk, and the suppleness of the cue's wood that affects greatly how much english is put on the ball. Then of course there are all the "special" shots, like massés, that require a lot of practive to control... etc...

Playing pool is a LOT more complex than chess, and that's not just because it involves real physics. The problem has many many variables, and it takes many years of practice to master. I've been playing for 20 years, at least 2 hours per day, and I still couldn't beat a professional. It's a very demanding game.

Re:Simpler eh? (2, Insightful)

Insipid Trunculance (526362) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907901)

I agree with the parent.Sometimes a shot is played not to pot a ball but TO DENY IT TO YOUR OPPONENT.That why those soft touches to park the cue ball right where the other chap can't do a thing.

Pool/Snooker are all about strategy.Any one, who watched the semifinals of this year's snooker championship when Ronnie O'Sullivan came back to win brilliantly,knows what I am talking about.

Re:Simpler eh? (2, Funny)

johannesg (664142) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907938)

I've been playing for 20 years, at least 2 hours per day

Man, where do you find the time to still read slashdot?

Re:Simpler eh? (3, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908173)

I assume that "simpler" in this context means to find a winning set of (reasonably possible) shots. That is not really that hard, it is the skills to make the shots that is incredibly difficult.

I suspect that the computer would do extremely well on a "perfect" board - single uniform friction coefficient, perfectly level, perfectly straight edges, perfectly chalked cue every time, perfectly accurate aiming mechanism and so on.

The biggest challenge is to deal with the imperfections of the real world. If the computer could have a simple look-up table of input velocity, direction and magnitude of the english -> output velocity, direction and magnitude of the english (for edges and ball-ball contact) + some simple calculations of (potentially curved) lines, I think I could program up a quite good one fast.

It'd do great in simulations, but still suck in the real world.

Kjella

Re:Simpler eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9908487)

I suspect that the computer would do extremely well on a "perfect" board - single uniform friction coefficient, perfectly level, perfectly straight edges, perfectly chalked cue every time, perfectly accurate aiming mechanism and so on.

The biggest challenge is to deal with the imperfections of the real world.


Exactly right, and exactly what the foolish parent poster attempted to deny.

This robot is completely uninteresting... it's an automatic pool table, not a pool-capable robot. It can only play pool under rigidly specific physical circumstances - it can't "play pool". It's not much different than a video pool machine, except that the designer must consider specific physical elements more than video pool designers usually have to. And that's hardly a more complicated task than designing a good chess-playing program.

Re:Simpler eh? (1)

rkit (538398) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908779)

This not as simple as it seems. Realistic simulation of multibody dynamics with contact is still subject to research. There is no such thing as a single uniform friction coefficient, in reality, you have (probably nonlinear) elastic bodies with varying contact surface. Parts of this surface stick together, in other parts the bodies are slipping against each other. I doubt that it is possible to reproduce a complicated shot from a professional player in a numerical simulation.

Re:Simpler eh? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9908408)

You've been playing for roughly 14,600 hours and you can't beat a pro? You should really find a different hobby, since you suck at pool.

I play about an hour or two a week, each time on a different table in a different location. I usually intentionally biff my first shot to get the feel of the table. Perky nipples or dead cushions can seriously ruin your game. And while a custom cue can improve your game, I always pick a random house cue as long as it's 19oz or heavier. Nothing makes me smile more than morons that go out and buy $500+ cues, only to get beaten time and time again.

My point is that pool is not a constant. You have to be able to play in any conditions. I'm no pro, but I love the game. I've never competed in a tournament, but I have been able to pay my rent by gambling on it. I'm no hustler, but I can probably beat 75% of all pool players out there.

And yes, I have beaten rank amateurs and professionals alike although not all that often. There's nothing more irritating than seeing a pro walk into a pool hall and watch fish after fish play the person and either miss unmissable shots or play out of their style because they're playing in fear.

In closing, find another hobby.

Re:Simpler eh? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9909518)

You're only better than 75% of all pool players? Christ, you suck at pool.

I play once a year, always in a different state. I usually intentionally miscue three or four times a game to allow the poor schlub I'm playing a little hope. I only use warped house cues with no tip and try to find a table with wrinkled felt and plenty of bare patches. I laugh at the professionals who whine that they only lost to me because of the beer puddle on the table. Pool is about playing the conditions.

I've never played in a tournament, but I once won $50 from a girl with Downs Syndrome. I am better than 85% of all pool players, past and present and future. If I played twice a year, I would be the greatest pool player ever, but that would bore me.

In closing, suck my balls.

Re:Simpler eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9908454)

Playing pool is a LOT more complex than chess, and that's not just because it involves real physics

Because you assert it, right?

Buzz off... you aren't smarter than anyone here, and you haven't considered anything new. Adding an "and that's not just because [the real reason]" disclaimer sans rationale doesn't excuse you from anything. You're wrong. The point you wanted to make was that real world physics add a dimension of complexity. Don't try to deny that at the end to attempt to elevate billiards, mathematically, above chess in terms of complexity. That just isn't true.

Pool is more complex than chess exactly - and only - in the same way that "foosball" is more complex than chess.

Re:Simpler eh? (3, Interesting)

The_reformant (777653) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908823)

I would have to disagree with you here. Even without mastering spin and such like given a high enough degree of accuracy it is likely that a very good execution plan could be calculated.

I think the real issue here is firstly getting the vision system coupled with the actual physical movement in an accurate enough manner.

In some ways this game is much smaller than chess, although you may say that there are infinite variations and whatnot you forget that we already understand the physics of the pool table incredibly well. Rather than searching forward like in chess a pool playing robot will have the luxury to decide which ball it wants to pot and then extrpolate back using simple newtonian mechanics.

I think their 5 year estimate to get a competitive pool playing machine is a pretty good guestimate. I know from experience that robots are notoriously difficult to get doing things consistently (an undergrad project was building a vision system which could get a robot arm to guide a ball on a string through s small loop) and i think that getting the whole thing consistent is probably going to be the main source of work.

I appreciate that youve been playing for 20 years and have invested a lot of time in it but remember that machines attack the problem in different ways. I have been solving differential equations for 10 years for well over 2 hours per day but its pretty straightforward to write a program which can solve them faster and more accurately.

Re:Simpler eh? (2, Informative)

Miniluv (165290) | more than 9 years ago | (#9909102)

Even without mastering spin and such like given a high enough degree of accuracy it is likely that a very good execution plan could be calculated.
Unless spin and the like are mastered a great many execution plans are removed from the realm of possibility. There are fundamentally two things that separate pro level players from amateurs: Planning and cue ball control. Planning is a lot easier to learn than cue ball control, since you simply have to know whats possible. Executing that plan requires a very, very subtle blend of speed control, english, and cut angle.

Rather than searching forward like in chess a pool playing robot will have the luxury to decide which ball it wants to pot and then extrpolate back using simple newtonian mechanics.
This isn't entirely true. Yes, in 8 ball you know that the 8 ball is your final destination, however there are usually several paths there. In fact, the better the robot is at cue ball control, the more possible paths and the higher percentage they all become. Even worse are games like 3 cushion carom, or snooker, where the goals are less definable. Sure, in snooker the robot knows the final goal is to sink the black ball...but there're 15 reds with a required color in between, then 7 colored.

Furthermore, despite the stated goal of sinking any ball in any pocket from anywhere on the table, this just isn't feasible. Every game you see situations where certain balls are only possible in certain pockets, and sometimes this means the only shot available is a safety. In snooker this is particularly true, since a well played safety can score quite a few points with forced continues. Try teaching the robot to properly judge safety shots, since they require a decent understanding of whats possible, and the robot just can't use its own skills as a baseline.

So basically,.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907810)

.."Then there is the challenge of teaching a computer to master the strategy of billiards -- how to sink a ball while setting up another winner shot or thwarting your opponent."..

Haaaa! He hasn't even done the minimax thing with it yet. Pathetic, says I!

How about table soccer ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907824)

KIRO is an autonomous table soccer robot developed at University Freiburg.

http://www.informatik.uni-freiburg.de/~kiro/englis h/index.html [uni-freiburg.de]

*YAWN* (5, Funny)

Chineseyes (691744) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907835)

Deep Blue now Deep Green *YAWN* someone wake me up when we see Deep Pink the nympho robot.

Re:*YAWN* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907873)

If I had mod points they'd be for you

Re:*YAWN* (1)

yulle (724126) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907967)

Or Deep Brown... better not to go into details on that one.

Re:*YAWN* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907986)

You really ruined the joke.

Re:*YAWN* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9908764)

gross

Smoke!! (1)

slumpy (304072) | more than 9 years ago | (#9909473)

Dude, Deep Purple rox!

C2H5OH (1)

SW6 (140530) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907839)

Deep Green pots only half the shots it plans for - supposedly the same as a below average player - but this is expected to improve.

My pool playing is likewise below average, except when I've had a few pints and I start clearing tables. No, I don't understand it either. Do you think the robot would play better if somebody tipped a pint of beer over it?

Re:C2H5OH (4, Funny)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 9 years ago | (#9907884)


RIMMER: How many of those are you going to drink?
LISTER: I told you not to talk. Game on.
RIMMER: You're going to drink an entire six-pack of wicked-strength
lager?
LISTER: I'm not gonna get plastered, Rimmer, just ... just nicely drunk.
RIMMER: Define "nicely drunk." Is "nicely drunk" horizontal or perpendicular?
LISTER: Rimmer, I can handle it.
KRYTEN: I'm not sure I can.
LISTER: We're in the wrong position. It's an easier shot if we go over here. (He moves into the "better" position and lines up the shot.)
RIMMER: But that's right in the orbital path of the planet! If you miss, we're going to get a planet in the face.
LISTER: I'm not gonna mish.
RIMMER: "Mish?"
LISTER: What?
RIMMER: You said "mish." "I'm not gonna mish," you said. You've only had two cans and you're steaming!
LISTER: Rimmer, will you relax? I know what I'm doing! I am not pished!


--From "Whitehole", Red Dwarf, Series 4

Re:C2H5OH (1)

Xerp (768138) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908148)

Even the pool playing robot in Silent Running missed its shot, and that was on board a pretty advanced spaceship.

I wonder if any other pool playing robots have faired better?

Re:C2H5OH (1)

johneee (626549) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908172)

So according to this even someone who pots half their shots is below average? Geesh. I must be way further below average than I thought then, cuz I only get about a quarter of them...

I wonder what that says about the people I beat?

Re:C2H5OH (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9908320)

My pool playing is likewise below average, except when I've had a few pints and I start clearing tables. No, I don't understand it either.

You don't really play better after a few pints, you're just so drunk you think you're playing better. In reality, everybody at the pub's been laughing at you for the past half hour after you came out of the bathroom with your fly open and toilet paper coming out of your pants.

Re:C2H5OH (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908769)

I've seen this happen with a number of people. I'm guessing that having the alcohol in your system makes you relax, which improves your stroke and follow-through. A lot of people hold the cue much too tightly and try to control their stroke way too much, resulting in a stilted, unnatural motion - remove these impediments and it's quite possible that your shooting will get better.

2001: A Space Odyssey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9907898)

Sounds like someone watched/read a bit too much of "2001: A Space Odyssey", didn't that have a pool playing robot in it? or I'm I mistaken? It's been a number of years since I've seen the movie.

I also recall it missing a shot or two.

Neat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9908031)

Wow... something that cool happening in my city!

I'm going to have to hunt this robot out and see this.

A pertinent quote (1)

Maeve77 (691970) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908158)

"Let's play the adding game. Which can add faster, a calculator or a woman or a man?. The calculator can, right?...[My} point is that if you light a match near a calculator it's not going to scurry away. If there's a fire in my living room where me and my calculator are sitting, I can escape the fire, but my calculator can't!"

--Moxy Fruvous (good, funny band), commenting on Kasparov vs. Deep Blue

Re:A pertinent quote (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908331)

"Let's play the adding game. Which can add faster, a calculator or a woman or a man?"

That depends on who gets to start first ;).

Seriously though if the questions come from a human it may be faster if the human comes up with the answers immediately rather than output them slowly (and possibly erroneously) to a machine and then get the answers.

So a human with a wearable computer+cam that automatically totals numbers "in a blink of an eye" could be faster than a calculator. e.g. look at top left of area containing numbers, look at bottom right, think your personal "Add" thought macro and voila numbers added and displayed.

Re:A pertinent quote (1)

Maeve77 (691970) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908362)

But the human would still be augmented with machinery. The point that the guy was trying to make in the quote was that it should be no big suprise that a machine programmed to just play chess or whatever can do it better than we can.

In my opinion, the real marvel would be if the computer came up with new strategies based upon its opponents' moves. Otherwise, the machine is simply an extension of human thought.

Re:A pertinent quote (1)

TomHandy (578620) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908851)

Majors props for the Moxy Fruvous reference....:) If there's a transcript of that whole exchange it would be pertinent here....:)

-Tom

A PHOTO OF THE POOL PLAYING ROBOT (0, Offtopic)

Nikkodemus (763778) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908195)


http://users.telerama.com/~megabee/images/pimpbot. gif

Half == good (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908243)

An average player will miss 3 out of 4 shots. But most average players don't play that much.

Neat, but chess was neater. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9908313)

To a computer, pool is a much simpler game than chess. It would be an advancement in robotics to engineer an autonomous pool-playing robot, but this project seems geared more towards creating an automatic pool table than any sort of adaptable robot (i.e. one that could play pool in any situation at any table, rather than only in one setting at one specific table) or computer program.

If that's all they want, why bother mounting a stationary robot on a pool table? Why not just buy a video pool machine...

Engineer not Scientist (1)

noone06 (678036) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908460)

A small correction of the summary; I do believe he's an engineer, not a scientist. In fact, you'll see the URL is hosted off the electrical and computer engineering faculty site.

Reminds me of a (bad) joke (3, Funny)

Nic-o-demus (169477) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908611)

Q: What's green, and if it falls out of a tree and lands on you it could kill you?

A: A pool table.

This is a great invention (2, Informative)

maxeypad (764349) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908898)

This has been done before to some degree with a robot called Iron Willie [allsportsbid.com] by a company called Predator whom used the robot to create low deflection cues and empirically measure how "accurate" cue designs were. Predator Cues [predatorcues.com] are to pool what high dollar putters are to golf. These cues utilize a pie wedge design in the shaft combined with a stiff taper and lightweight, short ferrule to decrease deflection and maximize energy transfer to the cueball. Many people report a 10-20 percent improvement when they start using a predator shaft on their cue. In fact, more professional players choose to play with predator shafts without sponsorship than any other cue on the market. The truly exciting thing about this invention is the fact that it will be used to create better pool equipment for independent testing. this robot will be much more flexible than iron willie and will be able to measure the performance of cues on a much lower level I'd imagine. Plus, i imagine the robot to be much more flexible than iron willie who simlpy can be setup to shoot the same shot over and over. Pool is such a complex game that it will be very difficult for the robot to get such concepts as sacrifice safeties and intentional fouls. Other games like one pocket, the pool equivalent of chess, will be really difficult to grasp for a computer since its very common to "sacrifice" a ball to your opponent for the good of the game. Read more about one pocket here [onepocket.org]

Thank god its the weekend..... (3, Interesting)

idfrsr (560314) | more than 9 years ago | (#9908942)

Goodness... our poor server may survive....

I must admit that is pleasing to have our project on slashdot. It's been a fun project and is getting me a M.Sc out of it :P. Having a pool table in your lab is a lot of fun on friday afternoons.

For those /.'s interested the robot should be playing a game entirely on its own in the spring. We are still very much in the early stages of development, but we have made lots of progress over the last 16 months from when the gantry was delivered.

Another piece of prior art (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9909687)

They didn't do much search for prior art, did they? Here's another billiards robot [autonlab.org] , put together more than ten years ago by a guy who's currently a professor at CMU [cmu.edu] . (Look at the last page of the paper for a very grainy photo of the robot.)

The cool thing about this robot is that it learns from experience: it watches to see where the ball goes, learns a model of how that depends on its stroke parameters, and tries to compute a better way to sink it next time. As pointed out by another poster, it doesn't plan ahead to the next shot, which is an important aspect of the game.

Deep Green- name is already taken (1)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 9 years ago | (#9909902)

OK, not that anyone will care... But the name "Deep Green" is already taken. Deep Green [planetnewton.com] is a Chess app for the Newton, and up until somewhat recently, was the best PDA Chess app around.

So there. :)
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