Man vs. machine: Watch who wins as GeekWire takes on a ping-pong playing robot that never rests

LAS VEGAS — I’m all the time looking out for the following nice ping-pong enjoying machine. I simply didn’t suppose that participant would really be a machine.

With the GeekWire Bash — our annual geeky anniversary extravaganza — developing on March 15, I took trip at CES this week to tackle Forpheus, a robotic designed by Japanese robotics firm Omron. Because the video reveals above, Forpheus might very nicely be the kind of participant to make a run within the Bash’s knowledgeable ping-pong bracket.

GEEKWIRE BASH: Tickets on sale for giant geek carnival, featuring ping pong, dodgeball, VR and more.

Now, I grew up enjoying ping pong fairly usually on a table within the basement of the house I used to be raised in. In Seattle, I put a table in my storage and continued the custom.

Through the years I’ve performed some fairly robotic buddies — individuals who might return nearly every little thing whereas barely pausing to take a breath or sip a beer throughout aggressive matches. However I’ve by no means performed an precise robotic.

Robot ping pong
GeekWire’s Kurt Schlosser performs in opposition to Forpheus, a ping-pong enjoying robotic from Omron, at CES in Las Vegas. (GeekWire Photograph / Kevin Lisota)
robot ping pong
(GeekWire Photograph / Kevin Lisota)

Omron focuses on digital parts and manufacturing unit automation methods and introduced this significantly compelling piece of expertise to its sales space on the Las Vegas Conference Middle. First created in 2014, Forpheus is ever-evolving, and was designed to showcase the unreal intelligence, robotics, sensing and management applied sciences that Omron focuses on.

It additionally drives dwelling the corporate’s philosophy that there will be concord between folks and machines.

“Forpheus is definitely not only a ping-pong enjoying robotic, however it’s a ping-pong enjoying tutor,” stated Keith Kersten, a Chicago-based advertising and marketing supervisor with Omron. “So it’s not meant to be one thing that you simply play in opposition to, however one thing that may assist somebody play higher.”

robot ping pong
(GeekWire Photograph / Kevin Lisota)
robot ping pong
(GeekWire Photograph / Kevin Lisota)

However I wasn’t actually interested by being taught easy methods to play higher, particularly in entrance of a whole lot of CES attendees taking video of me on their telephones. I used to be interested by profitable. For mankind.

Forpheus loomed above her finish of the table. She stood about 10 toes tall, and her legs and huge head made it look like I used to be enjoying in opposition to an enormous, robotic praying mantis. Her middle arm swung shortly backward and forward and ahead and backward — very like the Omron expertise simply steps away in a show exhibiting off a robotic arm sorting sweet on conveyor belts.

Forpheus relied on three eyes to trace the actions of me and the ball. Her mind was studying about my enjoying fashion and reacting to it, as she hardly ever missed any of my return pictures, and her pictures again at me nearly by no means missed the table or hit the net.

However as Kersten stated, she wasn’t actually making an attempt to beat me. She was simply serving to me study to be higher. So once I had a powerful rally or acquired a shot previous her, I used to be mainly beating myself — or the abilities of my prior self earlier than they improved … because of Forpheus.

A manufacturing unit flooring robotic attracts some consideration at CES. (GeekWire Photograph / Kurt Schlosser)
A sorting machine from Omron strikes a lot the identical approach as Forpheus does on the ping pong table. (GeekWire Photograph / Kurt Schlosser)

Away from the ping pong table, Omron reps mingled with robots roaming the ground across the sales space — a typical website for fairly just a few corporations at CES. Different machines labored as in the event that they had been on the manufacturing unit flooring and nobody was watching.

However every time a ball hit the table below the intense lights of the ping pong “court docket,” a big crowd gathered. All-seeing Forpheus in all probability knew that she was being watched.

And ultimately, man didn’t actually meet his machine match, or handle to best her. However the two did study a lot extra about one another.

robot ping pong
(GeekWire Photograph / Kurt Schlosser)
robot ping pong
After the match, an Omron machine confirmed off the corporate’s laser etching capabilities — with a particular ping pong ball. (GeekWire Photograph / Kurt Schlosser)

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