A robot that has been specifically designed to play ping pong is probably the most responsive robot on earth because it’ll never miss a shot.
The reason it’s able to return the balls so fast is that it keeps track of them 80 times a second, never taking its eyes of its target. It’s able to do this with multiple cameras positioned strategically around its huge, bulking frame. It also features an integrated movement sensor, which permanently tracks the position of its competitor.
Forpheus as it’s been named, is a table tennis tutor, designed to help opponents play better. It can hold a paddle and uses artificial intelligence to work out the style and ability of its student. This way, it can pug holes in the opponent’s style, although it won’t just let them win for the sake of it.
“Omron’s mission is a future where humans and machines harmonise together,” Tako Oya, the lead developer of the project at Omron, said in a video introducing the robot. “So to achieve this we produced a robot that can play table tennis.”
Although Forpheus looks pretty intimidating across the table, it can introduce some motivating talk, to make sure it doesn’t upset its student. For example, if it senses its opponent is getting tired or losing focus, it’ll throw some encouraging words its way.
It’ll also project images, showing how a player could return the ball in the best way, guaranteeing success against its competitors.
“At the moment it is a human who teaches a robot how to behave or teach,” Taku added in the video, “but in the next 20 years it may be possible that a robot teaches a robot or a robot develops a robot.”