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Robotics China News Technology

Rise of the Ping Pong Robots 50

Posted by timothy
from the friends-for-the-basement dept.
mikejuk writes with this excerpt: "Meet Wu and Kong — the latest in ping pong playing robots. They may not achieve exciting matches at the moment, but the fact that they can do the job at all is an indication of how fast things are moving. Unlike many other game-playing robots these two players are humanoid and are kitted out in old style Chinese jackets. They are about 1.6 meters tall and weigh in at 55 kilos. They track the ball with video cameras situated in their heads and then play a variety of strokes. They were developed by Zhejiang University and are currently turning up on the Chinese media as a novelty item. ... The current record for a rally is 144 rounds between robots. Humans can compete against them, but the robots lack the variety of shots that makes table tennis a game of strategy as well as accuracy."
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Rise of the Ping Pong Robots

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  • FYI (Score:4, Informative)

    by Nyall (646782) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @04:29AM (#38033382) Homepage

    The first video has some text saying that the current robot vs robot record is 176 strokes.

  • by Nursie (632944) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @04:32AM (#38033398)

    there was a blern-hitting machine!

  • by martas (1439879) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @04:39AM (#38033414)
    there's actually a really skinny guy hiding in the "robot". but seriously, it's quite impressive -- might not seem like much now, but the thing about robotics is that getting the basics is the hardest part; once you have that, getting fancy is relatively easy.
    • by msobkow (48369)

      Back in the early '80s, I remember being impressed by a pogo-stick hopping robot just because it could keep it's balance. That's amazing progress for 30 years when you think about it.

      • by mangu (126918)

        Back in the early '80s, I remember being impressed by a pogo-stick hopping robot just because it could keep it's balance. That's amazing progress for 30 years when you think about it.

        If there existed any use at all for a robot hopping on a pogo stick they would have developed it further. I remember the robot you mention and I also remember thinking why would anyone want that.

        A robot capable of following visually a moving ball is something entirely different. Tracking an object over an arbitrary background would allow some extremely useful capabilities.

        May I mention robots-driven vehicles on normal streets?

        • by cffrost (885375)

          If there existed any use at all for a robot hopping on a pogo stick they would have developed it further. I remember the robot you mention and I also remember thinking why would anyone want that.

          With appropriate materials and engineering, such a robot could be used to clear land mines, with the benefit that it could continue operating without intervention after detonating a mine and landing pogo-stick down.

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      Sorry by in my experience it has been the exact opposite. The basics are the easy part but when you try to deal with the last 20% one finds that there are many exceptions to the basics. When the exceptions interact they spawn more exceptions making things even more difficult. It is the old 80/20 rule. You get 80% of the job done quickly but that last 20% can make the 80% unworkable.

      This robot can stand in one place and deal with a ball that crosses 2/3 of the baseline in a restricted altitude. Here are som

      • by martas (1439879)
        You're absolutely right, but I guess I was talking about a much larger definition of "the basics". E.g. if you could make a robot that is a mediocre soccer player, or waiter, or pilot, etc, then chances are you've done most of the work required to make an exceptional soccer player, or waiter, or pilot, etc.
  • Terminal man (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @05:04AM (#38033484) Homepage Journal

    Brings to mind a scene in Michael Crichton's book Terminal Man where somebody is developing a ping pong playing robot (IIRC called HAPP (Hopelessly Articlated PingPong Player)) and the point is made that the ability to accurately deflect a table tennis ball could have all kinds of defense applications.

    • by Raenex (947668)

      If wars were fought with ping pong balls, sure. I don't see how it helps against bullets and missiles.

      • The only difference between ping pong balls and bullets is scale. If you got this thing good enough to pick out and detect bullets it'd be like any Hollywood action movie.

        • by Raenex (947668)

          Scale matters. The technology to detects bullets and deflect them is going to be drastically different than ping pong balls. You're going to need high-speed cameras and a mechanism fast enough to deflect it.

          A robot arm that mimics a human one enough to play ping pong is not even close to the right solution. It's so wrong that you're just wasting time by even trying to solve that problem if what you really wanted to do was stop bullets.

          • by hedwards (940851)

            I'd go so far as to say that it's nigh impossible to do that. They design Type IIIA bullet proof vests for use against a projectile moving 427m/s, so in order to give that kind of protection to a robot, you'd have to have an impossibly fast reaction time or for the projectile to be originating from a kilometer away. At which point it becomes questionable that the detection system would even be able to detect and model the motion while still having time to deflect it.

            Granted with lower velocity bullets it's

            • by Raenex (947668)

              Theoretically it's possible to detect the bullets, since light moves at about 300,000 km/s. If a fight is occurring at about 100 m distance, you have a quarter of a second to respond to it using 400 m/s as the bullet speed.

              For deflection, you definitely would not be using anything remotely like the technology used for this ping pong robot. Instead of moving an arm, you'd likely be firing a counter-bullet, but you'd need the mechanism to be extremely fast to aim, some kind of bullet launcher built into the b

  • by JustOK (667959)

    Has anyone asked the ping pong balls what they thought of all this? Probably not.

  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @06:02AM (#38033616) Homepage Journal
    before the robot can compete with human players... 30 fps aint gonna be enough if somebody were to smash the ball hard.
  • I better practice then :)

  • by The New Andy (873493) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:06AM (#38033786) Homepage Journal
    I wish the videos showed what happened when it stuffed up. This is impressive, but seeing how far you can push it before it fails would let me know the upper bound of its impressiveness :-).
    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      It's a Chinese robot, they aren't allowed to show it failing. The only way you'd see this robot fail is if it was somehow involved in a disaster that killed a hundred people.

  • The second video is a news broadcast; they play a snippet of Ievan Polkka. Gad, I love Chinese piracy.
  • "They are about 1.6 meters tall and weigh in at 55 kilos" Holy shit, they really ARE ping pong players!
  • oblig (Score:5, Funny)

    by gyepi (891047) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:25AM (#38033856) Homepage
    I, for one, welcome our new ping pong overlords!
    • by Kyont (145761)

      1.6 meters tall... 55 kilos in weight... impassive facial expressions and unfashionable Chinese jackets... playing mediocre table tennis... my god, they've invented San Jose State!

  • Is the human in the middle controlling something with that thing he's holding?
  • by vagabond_gr (762469) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @08:06AM (#38033980)

    Now you only need to fill the arena with a bunch of robot-fans programmed to act excited.

  • by Zoxed (676559)

    Makes me feel old: when I was a kid the best computers could do was play Pong [wikipedia.org] against me !!

    • Makes me feel old: when I was a kid the best computers could do was play Pong [wikipedia.org] against me !!

      ... and still beat me.

  • Do they only manage optical tracking? If you ask any sport practitioner, not only the vision is used, also sound feedback is very important, you can determine the strength, even the effect with a given sound...

    I wonder if they are including it already...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Yoshimi is a black belt in karate. I know she can beat them!
  • If you look at the video, you can notice special markings on the robot's side of the table: there are 2 rows of 4 dots parallel to the center line, which I guess are here to help the robots to estimate the position / trajectory of the ball. But this also make the table not conform to regulations (see specifications of tables for table tennis [oneofakindtrading.com.au]).

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      I saw those too but then noticed that they were not on both sides of the table. I bet that they were put there during early development and testing of a single robot. The robot was on the side of the table with the marks and the human serving, who didn't need the marks, was on the other side . When development reached a certain point the marks were no longer needed but they neglected to remove them.

  • If i wear a shirt the same colour as the ball and get too close to the robot does it start smacking me instead?

  • Yet another failure of Slashdotters to research a topic before posting.

    Russell L. Anderson made robots play ping pong at AT&T Bell Labs in 1988:

    http://www.ieeecss.org/CSM/library/1989/feb1989/w15-21.pdf [ieeecss.org]

  • have anything on Bruce Lee playing table tennis with nunchaku [youtube.com].

    Seeing that movie changed my life ambitions. Fo' rizzle.

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