OMRON’s New Ping-Pong Robot Unveiled

Omron Global, a Japanese electronics and engineering company has outdone themselves by building a ping-pong playing robot. The innovative machine that doesn’t just serve out balls, it can actually return them and rally with you.

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Omron points out that its ping-pong playing robot is no match for even a semi-skilled human opponent unlike Kuka Robotics, where a match against professional player Timo Boll led the robot to lose badly. The machine is designed with complex robotics and engineering technology and concepts that allow it to sense the opponents’ movements and calculate the speed and trajectory of the ball.  So, while the machine probably won’t be able to beat you since it’s designed for low difficulty matches, it can encourage rallies and help beginners work on their fundamentals.  The actual reason for this design is to creatively showcase what the company has to offer in terms of electronics, engineering and robotics capabilities.

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The robot itself was being developed by Omron for 6 months. It stands on three legs, is 8.9 feet tall and weighs 1323 lbs.  The Japanese company made the ping-pong robot for the purpose of demonstration, so visitors could actually see the fruits of their labor and technological evolution of relationships between people and machines.  The robot was designed for long continuous rallies with its human opponents.  It forecasts the ball trajectory and velocity based on data of the physical movement and ball position, and returns the ball to a spot at a velocity making it easy for the opponent to hit back. This process takes a fraction of a second.

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“The greatest feature of the ping-pong robot is that it shares a common goal of continuing a ping-pong rally with a human player, a makes calculated judgments”, the company explains. “To make this a reality, it is important that the machine ‘understands’ a person’s conditions and takes action to support the person in a manner suitable for his or her conditions.”  The ping-pong robot was unveiled at CEATEC in Japan this week, and won the Grand Prix in the Innovations Awards.

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