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Video: German Robot May Beat You at Ping-Pong
11/15/2012

Researcher Katharina Muelling poses with a ping pong playing robot she and her team at the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany designed and built. The robot is comprised of an arm to which a paddle is attached as well as a camera that watches the table and area of play, responding to the opponent's moves.   (Source: The Technical University of Darmstadt)
Researcher Katharina Muelling poses with a ping pong playing robot she and her team at the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany designed and built. The robot is comprised of an arm to which a paddle is attached as well as a camera that watches the table and area of play, responding to the opponent's moves.
(Source: The Technical University of Darmstadt)

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Ann R. Thryft
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Is it a robot or a human?
Ann R. Thryft   11/15/2012 12:07:15 PM
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The first sentence is pretty funny. I've often wondered if some people were robots: not only in sports, but in customer service conversations, both on the phone and by email. As robots get more humanoid looking that's going to be harder to determine even with visual cues.

Cabe Atwell
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Re: Is it a robot or a human?
Cabe Atwell   11/15/2012 4:35:05 PM
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I must say, 88% return rate is much better than me. But I would be surprised if it could beat a series of new players consistently. Artificial intelligence may seem like a fantasy far into the future, but simple forms of artificial learning are already possible, and are quite formidable. This is definitely the first step in the right direction.

From the bot's perspective, the ball is probably moving in slow motion. A 60Hz sample rate is near in-human. Average reaction time in humans hovers around 200ms. 

C

Nancy Golden
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Re: Is it a robot or a human?
Nancy Golden   11/16/2012 10:04:20 PM
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Good point about human verses bot reaction time - it reminded me of Data when he was tempted by the Borg Queen's offer to join her in First Contact - Captain Picard asked him how long he considered it and Data replied, "0.68 seconds sir. For an android, that is nearly an eternity."

 

 

Charles Murray
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Amazing
Charles Murray   11/15/2012 5:53:59 PM
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This is astounding. It's not hard to imagine this robot beating all humans in ten years. By the way, I notice no one hits to the robot's "backhand." I wonder why.

Tim
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Re: Amazing
Tim   11/15/2012 8:14:29 PM
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This is pretty amazing to see the robot learn how to play over time.  At the Robot display at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, they have a robot setup to play air hockey.  The robot used vision to analyze the table then would only go on an offensive shot when it saw that there was a clear angle to the goal.  At all other times, it stayed on defense.  The robot did a pretty good job and won most of its matches.

Redding
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Silver
Re: Amazing
Redding   11/16/2012 9:50:11 AM
I agree Charles, I sure want to hit the ball to that far right corner! Also, is it just me or is the Woman making an illegal serve? The ball has to hit your own side first when serving right?

Just like an Engineer to nitpik the details right? This is why my wife doesn't enjoy watching movies with me. :-)

Regardless this thing is totally cool and I would love to have one!

Ken

Charles Murray
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Re: Amazing
Charles Murray   11/28/2012 6:48:23 PM
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I agree, Redding. The woman's serve is illegal. I have a feeling that a legal serve -- bouncing the ball on both sides of the net -- would confuse the robot.

Jack Rupert, PE
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Re: Amazing
Jack Rupert, PE   11/30/2012 4:57:34 PM
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I wouldn't think that a legal serve should confuse the robot.  In order to operate at all it needs to know the ball's location in space as well the "field" (i.e., its side of the table).  Not sure that it would be able to keep score, but I would think it would be relatively simple to discount any bounces on the far side of the net, considering everything else it is work off of.

TJ McDermott
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Re: Amazing
TJ McDermott   11/16/2012 11:10:33 AM
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Just like the walking robots we've seen here in past months, this one needs to take baby steps to learn.

Scott Orlosky
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Re: Amazing
Scott Orlosky   11/19/2012 11:07:53 PM
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This was pretty fun to watch as the robot learned and got better.  I'm sure somebody will eventually figure out a useful application for this one-armed pongster even if it's only for ping pong training camps.  Maybe it can be used to toss packs of peanuts into the stands during a ball game?

Charles Murray
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Re: Amazing
Charles Murray   11/28/2012 6:50:49 PM
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Good point, Scott. Just as chess robots learned, these robots will learn. Twenty years ago, chess robots couldn't come close to beating master chess players. 

Rob Spiegel
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Another human vs. the machine tale
Rob Spiegel   11/15/2012 8:49:24 PM
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Nice article, Elizabeth. I especially like the video. It seems were seeing more and more versions of humans against the machine. I love the fact that it learns. However, Chuck makes a good point about the backhand.

robatnorcross
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Gold
Re: Another human vs. the machine tale
robatnorcross   11/16/2012 7:46:23 PM
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For the life of me I can't think of a usefull application for this thing. I'll bet that DARPA had something to do with it, however.

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