The choice about technological progress is not random and can be as intentional as a well-placed ping-pong spin shot. Ping-pong robots have come a long way in the last eight years. This short video was posted on the Instagram handle gadgetmint with what seems to be a profoundly existential question that we continue to ask: "Can a human beat a machine?" Why do we need to beat machines? To be clear, this is not the table tennis robot that shoots balls toward you, but a fully agile and interpretive interactive machine that is pretty good at table tennis.
The machine's name is Forpheus, the fifth generation of its ilk. In this 9:15 minute video, Daniel Ives from Table Tennis Daily takes on Forpheus.
"Today, I met my first ever non-human table tennis player, Forpheus from Omron at the Messe Exhibition Center in Hanover, Germany. This machine is absolutely incredible and has inbuilt features such as artificial intelligence and the ability to learn from the opponent! What I found mind-blowing was how well it handled my shots and spinny serves! I used an all round bat with Sriver rubbers on, so I was able to generate a lot of spin."
Benjamin Papst, regional marking manager for Omron Global, the maker of Forpheus, explains that adaptive learning is made possible by four cameras and duct tape. Okay, duct tape is not involved, but rather "it learns from your movements, and can continuously learn, and a can adapt this and learn in the next shot to react accordingly."
According to Omron Global's webpage,
"FORPHEUS is State-of-the-art technology that embodies the world of "harmony" where machines can bring out human ability.You can experience the future of mankind and machines that OMRON aims through a rally. The Name FORPHEUS Comes From – Future OMRON Robotics technology for Exploring Possibility of Harmonized aUtomation with Sinic theoretics. A coined term embodying OMRON's robot technologies based on its unique future prediction theory, "SINIC theoretics." It is also a combination of "For" and "ORPHEUS (a bard in Greek mythology as a symbol of human creativity)," representing OMRON's attitude of bringing out human creativity and possibility.
It looks pretty menacing, but that could be the impact of the Terminator movies on my imagination. We have come a long way from Pong.