This robot teaches humans to be better at table tennis

Human-robot interaction isn’t exactly an everyday occurence at the moment, but this robot is looking to bridge that gap by helping to improve player’s table tennis skills.

It’s called FORPHEUS, which, brace yourself, stands for Future Omron Robotics Technology for Exploring Possibility of Harmonized aUtomation with Sinic Theoretics, and has been developed by the Omron Corporation in Japan.

It also holds a Guinness World Record for being the first robot to teach a human table tennis, just in case you thought it was the latest in a long line of table tennis tutoring automatons. More interestingly, however, is how it manages to be better than the average ping pong player.

Lead developer on the project at Omron, Taku Oya, said that by combining vision and motion sensors with technology that accurately captures the speed of a moving ball, it can determine not just how it needs to respond to return the shot, but also where the ball will land when it does.

By using these speed-sensing cameras above the table, this means that the human player can see exactly where the ball will be returned, and thus improve their game. It even detects how good an opponent is and adjusts accordingly.

Just so that the poor old human doesn’t feel too disheartened, the net shows encouraging messages as well as the speed of the ball and the length of the rally.

“At the moment it is a human who teaches a robot how to behave or teach, but in the next 20 years it may be possible that a robot teaches a robot or a robot develops a robot,” Taku says.

So, we may be robo-stepping our way towards the singularity, but if we are we’re doing it one table tennis ball at a time.

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