Three recent events pitted robots and AI against humans, and other robots. While humans didn't fare so well, all of these events bode well for future advances in automation and control.
Robots and AI have been much in the news recently, especially it seems in areas related to sports or games. Three recent events highlight developments in these fields, and their implications for future developments in automation and control.
In April, the 2008 RoboCup German Open robot soccer tournament was held, which featured a series of soccer matches among robot teams (and their human assistants) from more than 15 countries competing for the title. The following video (4:23) shows the performance of many of the robots at the competition, including that of the winning Humanoid League team NimbRo:
This event prompted Wolfgang Patelay of Industrial Control DesignLine Europe to speculate on how the engineering behind these soccer-playing robots may lead to advances in manufacturing automation, unmanned vehicles and the development of humanoid robots (see "Robots: become science fiction reality?"). Speaking of robots and soccer, here's a short video of some industrial robots handling a soccer ball, which demonstrates the dexterity of some of today's industrial robots:
Another recent event, which took place at last month's Freescale Technology Forum, was the demonstration of an air hockey playing industrial robot. Forum attendees were able to play against the robot, which combined machine vision with a Freescale 32-bit ColdFire processor to present an apparently formidable opponent. Here's a short (3:31) video demo:
Finally, artificial intelligence (AI) technology advanced this week when a Texas Hold'em poker-playing program created by Biotools Inc. defeated some of the best human poker players at the second Man-Machine Poker Competition. Last year the program, called Polaris, lost to its human opponents.
An article describing the event (see "AI beats human poker champions") notes that the poker-playing algorithms used by the program may have applications outside of poker, such as, for example, laying out wireless sensor networks in buildings. (In any event, if you're interested in learning poker (or advancing your game) you can play against a version of Polaris yourself with BioTools' Poker Academy software.)