Just for kicks: this robot will absolutely destroy you in a game of foosball

Whether it’s chess, Go, or TV’s Jeopardy!, it seems that computers (and their programmers) aren’t willing to stop in their ongoing quest to beat human players at every possible game out there. The latest? A robot developed at the Swiss École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), which is capable of competing against — and beating — humans at foosball.

Created as a research project for students in the university’s Automatic Control Laboratory, the robot can outclass many human players by using powerful “arms” boasting the same kind of high dynamic linear motors found in manufacturing. It also possesses incredibly keen eyesight, thanks to a high-speed camera located underneath the table’s transparent floor. This camera takes 300 images every second, which are then analyzed by a computer tracking the ball’s movement.

“It’s able to measure the [ball’s] position much faster than a human,” Christophe Salzmann, the scientist in charge of the project, told Digital Trends. “Our specification for the project was to be both faster and stronger than a person. We actually had to reduce some of the power in the [machine’s] rotational motors because they were kicking the ball so hard that it left the play area.”

So just how good is the foosball robot? “At the moment, it can beat beginners or average players who don’t have much of a strategy for playing,” Salzmann continued. “I’ve played quite a few times before, but I certainly wouldn’t call myself an experienced player — and the computer can beat me. We haven’t yet tried it with really strong human players, but at the moment I think a pro or semi-pro player would be able to beat it.”

Part of the reason for this, he explained, is that the robot doesn’t possess much of a strategy. It can’t, for instance, try and fake out opponents, block incoming attacks, or even pass the ball between players. Instead it simply detects where the ball is and then blasts it toward the goal: a technique which works surprisingly well, when combined with its speed and strength.

But improvements are continuing to be made. “We want to add strategy,” Salzmann said. “There are lots of things we could do. Right now, we’re measuring where opponents are positioned, but not acting on this information. We’ve been watching a lot of videos of pro players to see how they play, and we really want to add some of those tricks.”

It won’t be today or tomorrow, but in a few years maybe we’ll be reading about championship-level robot foosball players. Hey, Skynet has to unwind after a busy day somehow, right?

Gaming

Ditch the meditation app. 'Katamari Damacy Reroll' is pure gaming zen

Katamari Damacy Reroll brings the magic of the PS2 classic to Nintendo Switch and PC. With updated visuals and the same great, singular loop, Reroll stands the test of time. Katamari Damacy is the ultimate relaxation game.
Product Review

‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ is an ode to gaming that lives up to its name

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a loving tribute to Nintendo and video game history. It’s a terrific multiplayer fighter that also has plenty for single-player fans to love this time around.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Gaming

These are the best Xbox One games available right now

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.
Emerging Tech

New experiment casts doubt on claims to have identified dark matter

A South Korean experiment called COSINE-100 has attempted to replicate the claims of dark matter observed by the Italian DAMA/LIBRA experiment, but has failed to replicate the observations.
Emerging Tech

White dwarf star unexpectedly emitting bright ‘supersoft’ X-rays

NASA's Chandra Observatory has discovered a white dwarf star which is emitting supersoft X-rays, calling into question the conventional wisdom about how X-rays are produced by dying stars.
Emerging Tech

It’s no flying car, but the e-scooter had a huge impact on city streets in 2018

Within just a year, electric scooters have fundamentally changed how we navigate cities. From San Francisco to Paris, commuters have a new option that’s more fun than mass transit, easier than a bike, and definitely not a car.
Business

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Emerging Tech

Full-fledged drone delivery service set to land in remote Canadian community

Some drone delivery operations seem rather crude in their execution, but Drone Delivery Canada is building a comprehensive platform that's aiming to take drone delivery to the next level.
Emerging Tech

Intel wants its fleet of drones to monitor America’s aging, unsafe bridges

Intel has signed a deal to use its Falcon 8+ drones to carry out bridge inspections. The hope is that these drones will be useful in spotting potential problems before they become serious.
Emerging Tech

Transplanted pig hearts show promise in baboon trials. Are humans next?

Researchers in Germany have successfully transplanted modified pig hearts into baboons. The results take us one step closer to ending organ transplant waiting lists for good. Here's why.
Emerging Tech

An A.I. cracks the internet’s squiggly letter bot test in 0.5 seconds

How do you prove that you’re a human when communicating on the internet? The answer used to be by solving a CAPTCHA puzzle. But maybe not for too much longer. Here is the reason why.
Emerging Tech

Makerbot is back with a new 3D printer that’s faster and more precise than ever

MakerBot's new Method 3D printer aims to bridge the gap between home 3D printers and more industrial 3D printing tech. Here are a few of the tantalizing things you can expect from it.
Giveaways

Print your heart’s desire: Enter our giveaway to win a free Monoprice 3D printer

We’re giving away a $400 Monoprice MP Voxel 3D Printer. It's easy to use, especially for beginners, with its simple menu system and touchscreen display. It comes fully assembled so you can spend more time printing instead of setting up.