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

LAS VEGAS — I’m at all times on the lookout for the subsequent nice ping-pong playing machine. I simply didn’t assume that participant would truly be a machine.

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

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

Over time I’ve performed some fairly robotic mates — 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 never performed an precise robot.

Omron focuses on digital elements and manufacturing facility automation programs and introduced this notably compelling piece of expertise to its sales space on the Las Vegas Conference Heart. First created in 2014, Forpheus is ever-evolving, and was designed to showcase the substitute intelligence, robotics, sensing and management applied sciences that Omron focuses on.

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

“Forpheus is definitely not simply a ping-pong playing robot, nevertheless it’s a ping-pong playing tutor,” mentioned Keith Kersten, a Chicago-based advertising supervisor with Omron. “So it’s not meant to be one thing that you play in opposition to, however one thing that will assist somebody play higher.”

However I wasn’t actually serious about being taught how you can play higher, particularly in entrance of a whole lot of CES attendees taking video of me on their telephones. I used to be serious about profitable. For mankind.

Forpheus loomed above her finish of the desk. She stood about 10 toes tall, and her legs and enormous head made it look like I used to be playing in opposition to a large, robotic praying mantis. Her middle arm swung rapidly back and forth 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 playing fashion and reacting to it, as she not often missed any of my return photographs, and her photographs again at me virtually never missed the desk or hit the online.

However as Kersten mentioned, she wasn’t actually attempting to beat me. She was simply serving to me be taught to be higher. So once I had a sturdy rally or received 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.

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

However every time a ball hit the desk below the brilliant lights of the ping pong “courtroom,” a giant 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 greatest her. However the two did be taught loads extra about one another.

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