Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ping pong-playing robots make their debut

Robots are already taking away jobs at factories. Now, it appears, they're ready to rule the table tennis court, too. Two ping pong-playing humanoid robots named Wu and Kong recently debuted at Zhejiang University in China where they showed off their skills in front of engineers and journalists. The twin 5 foot, 3 inch, 121 pound robots have 30 individually-powered joints, giving them an impressive range of motion. Each arm, for example, can move seven directions, according to the university's description.

Key to their ability to serve and return balls with forehands, backhands, and stoic focus are eye-mounted cameras that predict the path of the ball so the robot get can ready for the next shot.

Each camera captures 120 images per second, which are transferred to the robots' processors that calculate the balls' position, speed, angle, landing position and path, the Xinhuanet news agency reports.

It takes 50 to 100 milliseconds for the robots to respond and their ability to predict the balls' landing position has a margin of error of just less than an inch.

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