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Robotics Education Science

Deep Green - A Pool Playing Robot? 120

Posted by michael
from the bank-shot dept.
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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Deep Green - A Pool Playing Robot?

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  • Not so easy? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pedestrian crossing (802349) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @05:11AM (#9907661) Homepage Journal

    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!

  • 3 points... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 07, 2004 @05:16AM (#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?
  • Less Recognition (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mfh (56) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @05:24AM (#9907695) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by Alwin Henseler (640539) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @05:27AM (#9907698) Homepage
    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:Less Recognition (Score:5, Interesting)

    by danamania (540950) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @05:32AM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 07, 2004 @05:37AM (#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.

  • Re:Simpler eh? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 07, 2004 @09:49AM (#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? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The_reformant (777653) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @11:32AM (#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.
  • by idfrsr (560314) on Saturday August 07, 2004 @11:54AM (#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.

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