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Japanese Robots Besting Humans at Games

TOKYO — Tokyo University laboratory has developed a robot that never loses at the game of Rock Paper Scissors. That is because its visual processing abilities and fingers work together faster than the synchronization of any human brain. A video of the undefeated robot has garnered more than 3 million views on YouTube since going online at the end of June.

Tokyo University engineering professor Masatoshi Ishikawa has a good-natured response to frustrated human losers who accuse him of essentially creating a robot that cheats.

"[It is] not cheating. Every one millisecond the image processor decides, recognizes the shape [the human hand is going to make]. And after one millisecond can make a winnable shape, one millsecond later than a human being. Only one millisecond. But a human cannot see this difference because the human eye is very slow," explained Ishikawa.

More dexterous abilities, combining repetition and near perfect accuracy are the epitome of robotics. At the Ishikawa Oku Laboratory there has been amazing progress in that direction. Such as a robot that can catch a falling egg without breaking it, another one that can tie a knot, and a robot that may not be quite ready for the NBA, but is able to dribble a ball.

In such sports as baseball or cricket, the misses outnumber successes for even the most skilled athletes. That is not so in this award-winning school laboratory. For instance, a pitching robot is the result of five years of research and a lot of trial and error. And the cost of just one finger on the robot is equivalent to that of a compact car.

The technology obviously has uses beyond fun and games. Corporations are eager to take advantage of the lab's technology for industrial and other practical uses. And there is talk of applying it to assist disabled people and enhance human capabilities.

"As a first step I want to realize a high-speed, intelligent robot. After we recognize the stability, the safety of the high speed, we will apply [this technology] to the human body," Ishikawa added.

In the meantime, Professor Ishikawa and his associates are continuing to try to make their robots faster, more flexible and more precise to consistently outdo humans.

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