Monday, 17 Oct, 2011 Technology
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Latest Invention: Robots that Can Play Table Tennis

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Recently the world was able to witness two robots playing ping-pong with each other and with humans. The machines got engaged into the most popular Chinese sport at Zhejiang University.

With the help of the latest technology available today, the machines were able to serve the ball, return it and score. The backhand and forehand shots were made using motorized joints and arm motions.

It is worth mentioning that each robot weights 55 kilograms and is 1.6 meters tall. According to Xiong Rong, the director of the university's Robotics Laboratory, the team required 4 years to create the 30-joint machines.

Playing table tennis is not easy and making robots able to do so is an extremely challenging task due to the fact that the sport requires fast reactions. To be able to accomplish their goal, Chinese researchers equipped their robots with eye-mounted cameras able to capture 120 images per second. The captured images are sent to the robots' processors that in their turn estimate the position of the ball, its speed, angle, landing position and path.

All-in-all the team managed to create identification and positioning system so accurate that it can compete with human players. However, specialists say that professional ping-pong players are still better than the robots. This is mainly because the machines are so far unable to carry out complicated shots like slicing and curving.

It would be interesting to note that the robot program launched by the Zhejiang University is part of larger plan developed by the Ministry of Science and Technology. The main goal is to encourage the development of advanced technology in such fields as biotechnology, information technology and automation. In the near future researchers from the university plan to come up with robots able to do housework, reports Xinhuanet.

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