Thursday, June 28, 2012

Robot beats humans at rock-paper-scissors every time

New Scientist reports: [edited]

The robot wars have begun, and no matter how fast you choose your weapon - rock, paper, or scissors - the robot will beat you every time.

The three-fingered robotic hand developed by Ishikawa Oku's lab at the University of Tokyo has a dirty secret: it cheats. A high-speed video camera runs at over 1000 frames per second and watches your wrist and fingers as you begin to form the shape. The robot's visual recognition program needs only one millisecond to figure out which shape your hand will take, and choose the one that will beat you.

When the human player in the video above tries to change his shape at the last minute, it still can't fool the robot at the game, which is called janken in Japan. Its timing is so precise that it never shows its hand too early, and it wins 100 per cent of the time.

This kind of high speed vision may have a more practical use than arming robots so they'll always get to bat first at robot baseball. Robots can recognize speech in real time by the forms the human mouth takes, cooperate with humans performing precision tasks that take two, and maybe intervene in an accident before it happens. The janken game is an early example of what Oku's lab calls "meta-perception": the Sherlock Holmes-like ability of machines to pick up information humans would miss.

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