Just as with chess, checkers, and recently Go, machines have beaten us at another game of our own design: the hugely popular Japanese mobile game Puzzles & Dragons. This match-3 game with RPG elements has consistently been one of the top grossing apps of the last few years. Japanese YouTube user Junya Sakamoto built a robot that can play the game on a smart phone, with an attached laptop analyzing the best move to unleash a torrent of combos. (via Kotaku)
The rig doesn’t appear to be purpose-built for playing mindless mobile games, of course. Another video uploaded by Sakamoto shows him operating the phone from sleep mode entirely with verbal commands. The video shows off a variety of apps: browsing websites, dictating text, dealing with alarms, asking for directions, etc. While perhaps an overwrought solution to hands-free phone use for an able-bodied person, this could be a real boon to someone who might not have the manual dexterity to operate a smartphone, but who still wants access to all the conveniences that it affords.
Puzzles & Dragons (2012) is available on iOS and Android for free, but features in-app purchases, which have added up to billions in revenue for developer GungHo. An article on Gamasutra about coercive monetization techniques in free-to-play games cited it as being particularly masterful at manipulating players into spending money. Accordingly, GungHo can’t be particularly pleased at the notion of robots that can play the game with uncanny precision.