Table Tennis is a sport where you need to have an opponent to play with. Should it be another human being only? NO! You need an opponent, yes, but not just another human being it is possible even with a robot… Yes you heard it right! Finding a partner to play ping pong is not a big deal now-a-days because you have Table Tennis Robot to play with.
NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE!! Omron developed a table tennis robot named FORPHEUS. The acronym stands for Future Omron Robotics Technology for Exploring Possibility of Harmonized Automation with Sinic Theoretics. The acronym might sound as a character in mythology, but do not go hunting down for it. It is a combination of two words FOR and ORPHEUS (a symbol for human creativity in Greek mythology) stating Omron’s creativity in bringing out human creativity.
HOW DOES TABLE TENNIS PLAYING ROBOT WORKS?
FORPHEUS, the FIRST TABLE TENNIS ROBOT is developed by Taku Oya where humans and robot can “harmonize together”. It is has such a technology where the robot can judge how good or bad an opponent is. Whether a player is a beginner, intermediate or an advanced player. It watches not only the ball’s speed stroke by the opponent, also the harmony level that is a player’s facial expression and skeletal formation. Hundreds of different level players came to the Omron center and played with robot and they collected data. These data were then used to improve the robot at each step with respect to player’s serve, strike of the ball, body language etc.
Now the robot needs some components to estimate the movement of the ball and the player. So they inserted two vision sensors and one motion sensor. By the name itself you can pretty much guess what the sensors do. The vision sensor tracks the movement of the ball along with few cameras that are placed above the ping pong table. Coming to motion sensor, it detects the movement of the opponent.
It requires a lot of effort, money, to develop each part of the robot with respect to different player’s action. In spite of planting sensors and cameras, they have a special messaging system on the net. It displays messages to the player like “well played”, “nice shot” etc.
The robot even has different levels like easy, normal and hard which the player can choose. Now the robot is designed to teach another human, maybe in another 10-15 years it can teach another robot too.