Omron’s ping-pong robot is showing signs of improvement

Japanese electronics firm Omron says that in the beginning, its ping-pong-playing robot “could not even return a ping-pong ball,” which suggests its engineers were getting ahead of themselves when they described it as a “ping-pong-playing robot.”

On its website, the company clearly isn’t afraid to tell us just how bad the robot really was, explaining how the machine “kept missing the ball … it couldn’t even return the ball to the opponent.”

Evidently a tenacious bunch, Omron’s robotics engineers persevered, determined to create something that would at least go some way to justifying all the hours they were giving the project.omron-ping-pong

So at last, there’s some good news to share. This week, several years after a team member batted the first ball toward their (then) hopeless machine, Omron has unveiled a third version – and it’s ready to play.

Clearly an improvement on the original (what wouldn’t be?), and somewhat slicker than its predecessor, the latest design, which was shown off at this week’s CEATEC tech trade show in Tokyo, can actually keep the ball going with a human player.

While the robot’s opponent in the video (above) is admittedly no wizard with the bat, Omron’s machine, whose design suggests it’ll be best avoided by arachnophobes, looks nimble enough and makes few mistakes during the rallies.

To ensure it can make an accurate shot, the sensor-equipped bot analyzes not only the position of the ball, but also the opponent’s standing location and the precise position of their bat. Its computers then make a lightning-quick judgment about the likely trajectory and speed of the ball, allowing it to position its bat as the ball approaches before hitting it with the appropriate force back toward the human player.

While there’s still room for improvement, it beats the mess that this ping-pong “Trainerbot” makes during a practice session, and could probably handle this much smaller machine without too much difficulty.

And the motivation behind Omron’s efforts? Apparently it’s to develop the company’s sensor and control technology, which it says could one day help pave the way to “an enriched society marked by optimal harmonization of people and machines.” And really good ping-pong-playing robots.


E3 2019: Madden NFL 20 feels like it might have the X-factor

Madden NFL 20 doesn't reinvent the franchise, but its new X-Factor mechanic injects a bit of arcade magic, and we're happy to finally have Run-Pass Option plays at our disposal. Veteran fans will no doubt use them to tear up unskilled…

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.

Doom, Deathloop, and everything else from Bethesda's E3 2019 press conference

Bethesda held its fifth annual E3 press conference on June 9. Here is everything the publisher had to announce, including two new IP and new features for its existing lineup of games.

EA Play 2019: All the big news, from FIFA 20 to Battlefield V to Star Wars

EA is doing things a bit differently for its fan-oriented EA Play event. Multiple livestreams aired on June 8, replacing the traditional press conference format. We saw multiple games, include Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Emerging Tech

Uber Eats’ drone delivery service could see Big Macs hit speeds of 70 mph

Uber Eats is testing meal delivery using drones. The company wants to start a commercial delivery service using the drone this summer, but it still needs permission from regulators.
Emerging Tech

A giant new solar farm in Texas will harness the sun’s rays to … brew beer?

Brewing beer is surprisingly energy intensive. With a giant new solar farm in Texas, the world’s largest beer manufacturer promises to brew 100% of its beverages using renewable energy.
Emerging Tech

This lifesaving wearable could diagnose strokes more accurately

A new breakthrough wearable device uses two light measurement techniques to track the body's blood circulation — and accurately predict deadly strokes in the process. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Sloshed drone pilots in Japan can now be punished with jail time

If you're flying a drone in Japan, better not be sloshed when you send your bird skyward. A new law passed this week could see drunk drone pilots sent to jail for up to a year or hit with a hefty fine.
Emerging Tech

Mount Everest is now home to the world’s highest weather station

A team of scientists has created a new record with the installation of the world’s highest weather station atop Everest. Data from the expedition will help researchers better understand the effect of climate change on the region.
Emerging Tech

This drone with hands looks like a nightmare straight out of Black Mirror

This unlikely drone-with-hands creation is the work of Federico Ciccarese, the brains behind YouBionic, a bionic hand project that has evolved far beyond its original brief. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

This crazy-looking robot uses microspines on its legs to climb up walls

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have built a bioinspired robot, which uses microspines on its feet to grip onto rough surfaces. This allows it to climb up very steep gradients. Check it out.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Florida’s autonomous vehicle law, E3 updates, and more

On this episode of DT Live, we take a look at the biggest trending stories in tech, including Florida allowing fully autonomous vehicles on the road, Atari’s new gaming system, E3 updates, high-speed rail, and more.
Emerging Tech

Got $400 million to burn? The world’s largest airplane is up for sale

Stratolaunch, the world's largest airplane, is up for sale. All it'll cost you is $400 million dollars. The brainchild of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the plane was supposed to make space travel more accessible and affordable.
Emerging Tech

Ex astris, scientia: Star Trek logo spotted on the surface of Mars

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been boldly going to Mars and capturing images since 2005, and now it has spotted something where no man has gone before: a structure on the planet's surface which will look familiar to Trekkies.