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Vision-Superior Robot Trumps Humans At Rock-Paper-Scissors, Ping Pong Balls

For the record, I'm pretty darn amazed at how speedily and accurately the embedded vision demo co-developed by Analog Devices and BDTI accomplishes its dice-counting task: much faster and more precise than me. With that said, I'm really amazed at a robot named Janken, the Japanese word for the rock-paper-scissors game also known as roshambo.

Within a millisecond, as IEEE Spectrum explains, Janken (developed by the Ishikawa Oku Lab at the University of Toyko) determines what hand shape you're in the process of making; within a few milliseconds more, it's determined what shape its "hand" needs to make to beat you. But it all happens so fast that, as the video above shows, it seems like Janken is playing against you fair and square...and beating you every single time. More coverage comes from Boing Boing and Slashdot.

Believe it or not, however, Professor Ishikawa from the Ishikawa Oku Lab felt that the above clip "lacked enough technical details and wasn't satisfying for robotics researchers". So, a few weeks later, the lab published another video (below), which shows how their system's 1,000 frame-per-second camera and pan-and-tilt subsystems are able to accurately track an in-flight, high-speed ping pong ball, dynamically adjusting to keep it perfectly centered in the camera's frame. Amazing. And, for the record, befitting from way more available compute horsepower (PDF), along with a much higher associated bill-of-materials cost, than that which exists in the ADI/BDTI demo.

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The ping-pong ball tracking demo is amazing. Coincidently, I have been thinking about something similar. My younger son is learning to play table tennis. To decide how powerful his forehand loop is, I need something to measure two speeds: that of the ball flying and of the ball spinning. It's like the radar gun that is used to measure and display the serving speed in a tennis match, with an added measurement for the spinning. Spinng is more important in table tennis than in tennis.

I figure that with a camera of 60 frame rate, the speed of the ball flying across the table can be measured. Measuring the spinning is more challenging though. I hope that can be achieved with a consumer camera, preferably some future tablet.