Monday, 17 March 2014

Anyone for Wiff-Waf

It's the rise of the machines!

If you didn't know, Wiff-Waff was the original name for table tennis, and is, surprise surprise, another sport invented by Great Britain as far back as the 1880's. Made popular as Ping-Pong, table tennis requires incredible hand eye co-ordination, tremendously fast reflexes, the ability to predict where the ball will be from a millisecond's worth of seeing where the ball is in relation to the table, fantastic athleticism and flexibility to be able to stretch and reach for those apparently impossible to reach for balls, and finally unbelievable sense of touch, knowing when to hit the ball hard or change the pace by hitting it softly so it just falls over the net.  In short not something you would associate with robots.  But you'd be wrong!

The video shows an epic match between Timo Boll, the best player in Germany, and a Kuka robot. Apparently the fastest robot around. While Timo is pretty good - I'm sure you could all give him a good game - what the robot does is amazing.  It must have motion detectors (cameras) to give it vision, incredibly fast processing power to handle all the calculations necessary to predict where the ball will be, fantastically quick motors to get the bat into the right position in time and sensitive touch sensors to be able to control the ball.

While Timo wins, just, what sport or activity do you think you can do better than robots? Chess, Snooker perhaps.  When do you think robots will take over the world?

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