WHAT THE TECH—
An amazing video of a supposed robot throwing a strike with a bowling ball has Twitter and Facebook users wide-eyed. The video appears to show a large robot at a bowling alley, picking up a ball, spinning it around with its arm and literally throwing the ball through the air striking the headpin in mid-air. It isn’t real. The video was created by @tomcoben, a graphics illustrator who tweeted out the video and even specified in the tweet that the video is 100% CGI.
That didn’t prevent millions of people to believe it is real. Robots are doing amazing surreal things every day, it’s no wonder people thought this video was of a real robot.
Last January at CES a large crowd gathered to watch a robot playing a high level game of table-tennis against a very good player. The robot is named Forpheus and was developed by engineers and programmers at Omron Robotics.
As amazing as it was to watch the robot in action, it was even more amazing to hear how it works and how it uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to beat some of the best players in the world.
“It starts learning right when you walk up to the table,” Omron’s Matthew Trowbridge explains. “It starts measuring you, watching your movements and as you pick up the paddle it will see how you move the paddle. So by the time you hit the first ball back to Forpheus, just before the paddle hits the ball, it knows where the ball is going to land already.”
Forpheus is actually a table-tennis instructor, giving students instant feedback on their fundamentals like any human instructor would do and maybe better. That’s the thing about robots and where we’re headed. They can be programmed to do many things better than humans. They can also learn to improve their performance and that can be kind of scary.
“We want to show that automation and robotics does not have to be scary or anything,” said Trowbridge. “We want to show people that the automation technology and robotic technology of today can be used in a fun and productive way and work in harmony with people.”
Robots are taking the field in other sports too. One group is working to field an all-robot soccer team that will beat World Cup champions. The goal: playing a FIFA regulated game by the year 2050.