CES 2018's Coolest Attraction Was a Robot That Plays Ping-Pong

Friday, 12 January 2018 - 8:27PM
Friday, 12 January 2018 - 8:27PM
CES 2018's Coolest Attraction Was a Robot That Plays Ping-Pong
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CES 2018 took place this week, and a lot of fantastic advancements in technology were on display. As exciting and innovative as these showings might be, the clear winner of the show is a robot by the name of FORPHEUS, created by Japanese Electronics company Omron.

FORPHEUS' major unique selling point? It's a robot that plays Ping-Pong. See for yourself:

In fact, not only does FORPHEUS play table tennis, but the robot is programmed as a teacher, helping human players to improve their game.

FORPHEUS is capable of enduring particularly grueling Ping-Pong matches, and therefore is able to play at a level and speed that suits the player. The robot can detect, through the use of scanners, facial recognition, and complex algorithms, when the player is struggling - at this points, the robot will slow down its pace to help avoid the player getting flustered.

FORPHEUS can also offer helpful guidance for players of many different levels, giving feedback based on the way the player returns volleys that helps them to learn to make the most out of every swing. This is a tremendous technology, not just because the robot can play Ping-Pong so well, but because it's able to use state of the art computing to best figure out how to help the player.

A lot of people are understandably wary about the threat that robots pose to the modern workforce.

Why would a company hire a human when a machine can do the job better, faster, and without demanding paychecks? Technological advancement has already seen many jobs become automated, and with machine learning growing in power, it seems that a lot of traditionally safe jobs, like insurance broker, travel agent, or internet news writer (gulp) will soon go to the robots.

While it's easy to doomsay about the potential dangers that robots pose to our modern way of life, it's important to remember that the world didn't stop turning when humans were no longer needed as much on assembly lines - while many of us may have to change our jobs, for the majority of humans, new advanced robots can be a useful tool, rather than a replacement.

Deep learning has been applied to a variety of different tasks, from scanning the universe for anomalies, to predicting whether or not a medical patient will develop a tumor in the next few months. The ability to compare reams of data in seconds makes these advanced robots incredibly useful in aiding work performed by humans.

Gym teachers probably aren't in danger of being replaced by FORPHEUS any time soon, but the robot can be a useful tool that a Ping-Pong tutor can rely on to help a player improve their game. Similarly, it'll be interesting to see what will happen when teachers are able to use deep learning algorithms to compare students' homework against thousands of similar papers.

Patterns will emerge, and a robot will be able to spot, just be reading a student's work, what element of the syllabus the teacher should stress in the next lesson to best meet students' needs.

A Ping-Ping playing machine may look like nothing more than a novelty, but FORPHEUS is actually an excellent glimpse into the future of education, as machine learning unlocks the key to helping us all become smarter.