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Toys

Kiro, the Foosball Robot 162

JasonFleischer writes "Although the official line from the RoboCup competition is that robots should be ready to challenge humans on the soccer field by the year 2050, we don't have to wait that long to see man-machine competition in the bar. Researchers in Germany have developed a table football (foosball, table soccer, whatever) robot. The human challenger(s) take the red team, while the machine works the blue side, using an overhead video camera to see what's happening on the table. The conference paper shows that while the machine generally wins against the normal bar-amatuer it has no chance against a human grandmaster. But these kinds of things are always improving, after all look how big a deal the man-machine chess competition turned out to be. So perhaps the current table football world champions should be watching their backs."
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Kiro, the Foosball Robot

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  • Awful Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bame Flait ( 672982 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:11AM (#6067232)
    This will be fun for about ten minutes, until the machine is either impossible, or laughably easy (more likely) to beat.

    People in bars want games they can play socially, with other people. The people who would really be in to something like this would stay home tweaking their Debian installation and picking at their hemorrhoids.
    • Re:Awful Idea (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hellkitty ( 641842 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:18AM (#6067320) Journal
      Roger that. One of my biggest hobbies is playing bar games. But you are right - I don't play foosball for the opportunity to beat a machine. I do it because it is something fun to do with friends when you may or may not be intoxicated.

      Chess is a thinking game. The idea of a machine being able to out think or out strategize a human fosters competition, so that's where the excitement in that lies. Foosball is simply hand eye coordination. I have no doubts that a machine will eventually be able to out manuever me in hitting a ball with a little plastic man on a rod. It his hardly the technical coup of a computer beating one of the best chess players in the world.

      • Re:Awful Idea (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Tom7 ( 102298 )
        > Chess is a thinking game. The idea of a machine being able to out think or out strategize a human fosters competition, so
        > that's where the excitement in that lies.

        Sure, but you can write a chess player in a day because the inputs and outputs are so well defined. Following the ball, actuating the rods, planning shots -- those are all really hard things to do and they're not an issue in computer chess at all!
      • Re:Awful Idea (Score:2, Interesting)

        Part of the reason IBM was able to create a program that beat a human was the fact that human chess masters prepare for a particular opponent (they study styles, weaknesses, etc), IBM never made any of this info on their program available, but did prep their machine to play a particular master.
    • Re:Awful Idea (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ebh ( 116526 ) * <edhorch@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:23AM (#6067360) Journal
      I think it would be pretty much impossible to make a tournament-level competitive player this way.

      50FPS is way too slow to react to even a simple three-man push shot. Humans generally can't see the ball when it's done well; they have to build up the skill to Just Know where the ball's going to go. It would be very easy to put some tiny variation into the shot that would completely throw off an AI.

      Plus, the AI only models the field and the playing figures, so it can't respond to poker-style cues a human opponent might give off, like a slight pretensioning of the forearm, that would indicate when the shot would be attempted.

      It would be amazing for practice drills though, both offensive and defensive.
      • The framerate isn't much of a problem. Optimize your code or wait for faster equipment to come along and you can raise that pretty quickly. A harder problem is dealing with the spin on the ball, which would be difficult for the camera to pick up. A faster frame rate would mitigate this somewhat. As the framerate goes up, the AI's defence will improve. The hard part is improving its offence. Getting it to use bank-shots, spin, controlled passing... that where all the interesting stuff happens.
      • Re:Awful Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

        by travdaddy ( 527149 )
        I think this is actually a good idea, whether it is a competitive player or not. Even though table soccer is a far cry from real soccer, this "experiment" will truly show whether computers will be ready for the soccer field with Robocup in 50 years. Unlike chess, here you will have physical elements the AI must deal with, like the handles not moving as smoothly as they should, or the field getting uneven, and the ball getting dents in it, etc., just like the physical imperfections AI would deal with on th
      • It's quite good. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by tequesta ( 442108 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @11:49AM (#6068066)
        I've played this thing last February at the Hannover industry fair. I'm by no means a tournament-level player, but I'm not crap either, so I think I can judge this thing's playing power. It's not very good at planning shots (in fact, it's crap at that ;-)), but it's amazingly fast. Better reactions than I have ever seen in a human. And keep in mind, this was a year ago. They use motion prediction to increase the frame rate, so that isn't the limit.

        I do think that they can make a tournament-level player out of this thing. Which isn't the motivation, of course, but give them two or three years.
      • Sure, but on the same token, a machine that can do the three variations of the snake lightning fast and with near perfect accuracy and NO poker cues is going to score almost 2/3 of the time he gets the ball to his three bar. I agree that 50fps is a little low, but I don't think it's unreasonable that this machine could beat good players with some more work...

        Anyway, I want one of these for practice. ;)
        • a machine that can do the three variations of the snake lightning fast and with near perfect accuracy and NO poker cues is going to score almost 2/3 of the time he gets the ball

          Make that 1/3 of the time (if he's shooting a random option each time, just park on 2 of the options; if not, just move randomly on the 3 holes). 5 options off the snake (short and long push and pull, plus straight) would get it to 60% which is about what a good human shooter shoots in tournament play.

          As it stands now it's pretty
      • So the computer's defense would be weak . . . but what about the offense? Imagine the machine passing the ball up the rows, and finishing with a perfect pull shot before the human even has time to switch rods.

        Not to mention the random variation the machine could put into its shots, with no visual cues, combined with virtually limitless speed. It could be unstoppable.

    • Re:Awful Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by brendotroy ( 251962 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .yort.nodnerb.> on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:32AM (#6067433)
      This will be fun for about ten minutes, until the machine is either impossible, or laughably easy (more likely) to beat.

      (sarcasm)
      Right, that's why Golden Tee and a host of other bar - arcade games have been such a failure. (/sarcasm)

      Golden Tee type games offer 2-player/1-at-a-time gameplay and are still hugely popular. This would let you and your mate (the only one who came out to the pub with you that night) to play a rousing game of foosball together against the "computer" at a skill level you chose.

      I'm not saying we're going to see coin-op Kiros anytime soon, but the idea is not so preposterous.

      My $.02
      • Re:Awful Idea (Score:3, Interesting)

        by davidhan ( 539718 )
        Hey once one of the amusement table manufacturers sees this, I think they'd jump on the chance to develop a commercial version. Now that dotcoms aren't around anymore to put tables in their employee lounges, they probably need more revenue sources. It be coming sooner than you think. Give Kiro some smack talking ability and it'd be a hit. "Puny human, my Z-80 grandmother is faster than you!"
    • on their website, they say its a good way to practice -- for all those grand masters out there. Because you can focus on a single shot or whatever. But I could see it popping up in arcades...
  • Great... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:11AM (#6067242)
    ...someone else to kick my ass at that game.
  • Bah! (Score:5, Funny)

    by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:13AM (#6067251) Homepage Journal
    Until this thing starts talking smack while racking up the goals, I'm not impressed...
    • They could always loop the Duke 3d dialog track in the background :)
  • by Davak ( 526912 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:14AM (#6067262) Homepage
    What is the world coming to when...

    "foosball" and "grandmaster" is used in the same paragraph.

    Of course, I didn't realize that "table football world champions" actually existed either. Isn't that decided by the last drunken game... "And thhhiss is for the cchampionship ooffff thheee wwwwwooorrllldddd."

    Davak
  • by MeanE ( 469971 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:14AM (#6067263) Homepage
    but does the computer have full control over all the umm (forgive my foosball knowledge) "handles" at all time. I mean part of the game is having to let go and grab the next one. Kind of an unfair advantage if the computer does not have to do so.
  • Yeah? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by superdan2k ( 135614 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:14AM (#6067266) Homepage Journal
    I'll be impressed when they have a robot/AI that can play ping-pong. If you look at the plane the ball travels in, foosball is pretty two-dimensional...not entirely, I'll grant you, but I'm making a generalization. If you can create a robot that can deal with three dimensions, and can build strategies to play a good game of ping-pong, then I'll be impressed.
    • I'm pretty sure I saw a robotic table tennis (ping pong) player on TV recently. Damn impressive. Anyone else see it, or was I dreaming?
    • Ooooh, no-one [newgy.com] ever [asia1.com.sg] thought [totaltabletennis.com] of that!

      the miracles of google!

      • Those are not ping pong playing robots. They are ball servers, just like the machine you have in a batting cage, but for ping pong. They are used for practice, not for playing.
    • by tgd ( 2822 )
      You clearly have never seen me play. Eyes, heads, jockers... its all fair game when I'm on the table... can't block my shot if you're busy protecting your eyes or family jewels!
    • Re:Yeah? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by spongman ( 182339 )
      I'd say that the ball dynamics in foosball are much more complex than that of ping-pong. Yeah, there's another dimension to consider in ping-pong but in general there's no ball control, the ball comes towards you, makes contact with the bat (which has its own trajectory) and almost instantaneouly leaves in another direction. Pretty simple physics.

      In foosball, not only does each player have 11 (or 13) 'bats', but the men have 4 sides and corners which can all be used effectively. More importantly, the ball

      • I have to take issue with:"the ball comes towards you, makes contact with the bat (which has its own trajectory) and almost instantaneouly leaves in another direction. Pretty simple physics."

        The "almost" in "almost instantaneously" is what allows a player to impart a great deal of spin on the ball. I'm just an adequate player but my family kill-shot doesn't just have a lot of top-spin, it has enough side spin to curve about 5 inches in the air, jump sideways when it hits the table, and bounce from the op
  • ....and sink a shot at the same time, I'd be impressed.
  • "the machine generally wins against the normal bar-amatuer"

    But how much has this normal bar-amatuer had to drink?

  • Man (Score:5, Funny)

    by mondoterrifico ( 317567 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:16AM (#6067302) Journal
    The fact that there is a human grandmaster of foosball somehow makes my life seem less meaningless. :)
    • The subbuteo link they give is a completely different game from table soccer or foosball.

      But Frederico Collignon, who they did mention in the article, is the world champion on _many_ different kinds of tables--including the Tornado tables most prevalent in the United States, the slow-ball/pin Jupiter and Bonzini tables used in his native Belgium and France, and the fast-ball Garlando tables popular in Italy and Austria.

      He made in the neighborhood of $50,000 last year in winnings at major tournaments--but
  • someone who can dethrone Leif Garrett! [imdb.com]
  • by POds ( 241854 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:18AM (#6067315) Homepage Journal
    Bringing computers into pubs? No, No i tells ya. I work with computers all week. Theres a few things i like doing at the friday happy hour with my work mates. Thats, getting cheap or free beers and playing pool.

    This thing doesnt bellong in a pub. It belongs in a pinball palar... Or whatever you call those things...

    Computers in pubs? pfffffffft... why dont i just start bringing beer to work?

    Actualy, i make a good point, why dont i? :/

    My point is the pub is my one place to ungeekatise myself... bringing a computer to a pub might have the oposite effect.
  • Oh crap.... (Score:4, Funny)

    by cybermace5 ( 446439 ) <g.ryan@macetech.com> on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:18AM (#6067319) Homepage Journal
    I hope the robot isn't smart enough to jam the handle at maximum speed toward an opponent, when the opponent is positioned...uhm...a little too close.

    Ah, the college days of Extreme Foosball. And misinterpreting what exactly 'foos'-ing a ball is.
  • Here's another invention that's sure to further the cause of humanity! Kudos!

    ....Bethanie....
  • by ih8apple ( 607271 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:21AM (#6067342)
    Rather than using a camera to read the table, if the table were built with sensors in each of the guys (to indicate state/current position/speed of current rotation) and a sensor in the ball (or positional sensors around the edges that could read the location of the ball), I believe that the software would win now, without any improvements. (Maybe we could put a GPS device in the ball!)

    My guess is that the majority of the work that the computer has to do now is to figure out, from the video feed, where things stand before reacting. If the state were easier to read, the machine's reactions would easily outdo any human, champion or otherwise.
    • (Maybe we could put a GPS device in the ball!)

      As much as it might be true that it'll have a better win/lose ratio with sensors, GPS is not the way to go. I mean... A foosball table isn't all that big, and what will the computer do when he thinks the ball is actually 5 metres outside of the "arena"? GPS is a no-go.
      • yeah, but we could triangulate relative to a fixed sensor whose location is known or use multiple satelites and get better accuracy or we could use that new european system...there are ways around the government's intentional bad data.
    • Changing the ball in some way so that a robo-player could know where it is without a vision system certainly WOULD simplify the problem. However, if you do that, you are no longer playing foosball. You have changed the design problem to accomodate the solution and failed to address the real goal of making a foosball robot. Now OTOH, if you can design a system to sense where the ball is that doesn't use vision and doesn't alter the ball or significantly alter the table, well that would be pretty cool too.
    • if the table were built with sensors in each of the guys (to indicate state/current position/speed of current rotation) and a sensor in the ball (or positional sensors around the edges that could read the location of the ball), I believe that the software would win now, without any improvements.

      Judging from the video, no way. It'd need _much_ better reaction time (faster motion of the rods) and some concept of how to block brush and chip passes (and shots). I also doubt the current software would even
  • Bets it (Score:1, Funny)

    by Timesprout ( 579035 )
    piss easy to win if you yank a few wires when the ref is not looking
  • by Anonymous Coward
    One of the main strategies is to perfect a shot that can be executed faster than humans can react to it. (i.e. stop the ball with your offensive 3 man rod and then wait and then slide the ball and shot it somewhere else along that rod). But what happens when the computer it watching it, if video is fast enough and the ai sees what you are doing then it might be able to block things that humans would never be able to stop. On the flip side the robotic arms could execute the same shot 100% of the time, but
  • I'll be happy when they teach AIBO to fetch the morning paper or autogrowl at bad people. I wonder if they'll get to a point were I can download new "programs" for the robot -- like in The Matrix -- download a martial arts foosball playing AIBO program. Now that would rock.
  • Missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomcio.s ( 455520 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:32AM (#6067428) Homepage Journal
    I think everyone so far has missed as to why exactly this is such a big deal.
    It is not important what game the robot mastered. What is important is the fact that the robot is capable of on the fly visual/apendage (arm) coordination.
    That means we have technology that will allow for application of this in other areas (think retrieval robots for disaster zones, etc.)
    That is what makes this story so exciting.
  • Look at this [stanford.edu] and them imagine the red guy as the T1000 terminator. Do you *really* want to play soccer with him?
  • I'll get to as soon as someone makes a robot that can play foosball...HAHAHHAHAHAHAAHA

    Now I'll have to change it to:
    I'll get to it as soon as someone makes a robot that can kick my ass on a regular basis playing foosball (minus laughter afterwards).
  • I was momentarily surprised by this, until I remembered a TV show that was on Yorkshire Television in the 70s, in which fast bowler Freddie Trueman introduced groups of people playing pub games.
    Table football, shove ha'penny, skittles, and Nine Men's Morris.

    This wasn't tucked away in the afternoon or late at night. There was no afternoon or very late at night TV in those days. This was on around 7PM in the evening...

    The horror! The horror!

    Ah well. At least table football champions get out more than onlin
  • It is a research project. They're doing it to see if they can do it. Creating a robot that cn play foosball is obviously an interesting technical challenge in a lot of ways. The researchers will learn a lot in the process.

  • Did anyone else go to NASA's cool robot of the week [nasa.gov] to see if it was listed? Why isn't it?
  • by rickthewizkid ( 536429 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:43AM (#6067518)
    ... of table- soccer? You mean, that game with the little spinny men on bars, right?

    That's sad. Very sad.

    Oh well, to each his own

    Just my Insert-two-quarters-for-one-credit's worth
    -RickTheWizKid
  • by trix_e ( 202696 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:44AM (#6067525)
    hmmm... if I were wanting to create the ultimate computer foosball player, I'd just have the machine rotate all the handles at about 12000 rpm, sliding them back and forth at a 100 cycles per second.

    The first time the human opponent catches the ball off the forehead at 1200 fps... FORFIET! The machine wins again.

    but that's just me...

  • by miracle69 ( 34841 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:44AM (#6067529)
    Foosball is of the DEVIL!
  • Normally, they are known by the term "frat boys".
    • I think that they are just trying to utilize current AI technology to further expand it. AI in chess often consisted of analyzing every possible move. Foosball while not as intellectual has much more freedom of movement, relative to chess. Also, the AI has to react with fast reflexes as opposed to the long periods of thinking a chess computer can do. I think Foosball could be used to help advance AI. It has unique challenges but is still constrained enough to prevent the problem from being too big. FY
  • by DailyGrind ( 456659 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:49AM (#6067574) Homepage
    I was OK with robots taking away factory work

    I am OK with robots taking away bar games

    But when they start drinking beer on my behalf I draw the line!

  • by Zygote-IC- ( 512412 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @10:52AM (#6067599) Homepage
    I don't think this is the way it's supposed to go. I haven't seen Terminator 3 yet, but I'm pretty sure Skynet doesn't begin with a withering attack on humanity's carefully-crafted illusion that foosball is anything other than spinning the handles as quickly as you can and screaming, "BOOOYAH! IN YOUR FACE!"


  • I impaled one of my sister's Barbie dolls on the business end of a power drill when I was 9. Where's my patent?

  • by Rick.C ( 626083 )
    "Winners never spin and spinners never win."

    Words to live by, my friends.

  • So that's what foosball is. Heard the name quite a lot on US TV programmes and films we get over here, but never realised what it was.

    Is the name derived from the German "Fussball"?
  • No way. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vitaflo ( 20507 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @11:25AM (#6067883) Homepage
    Having played foosball my entire life, I doubt they can make something to beat anyone of real skill anytime soon. When you get really good at the game, it's not about seeing the shot to block it, because you rarely see it (if you're good enough) because it's so fast. No, you're going on anticipation, of what the player may do. It becomes a sort of guessing game at that point.

    This is where the stragegy in foosball really comes in. They key is to have a bunch of various shots you can use but that all "look" the same on set up, so the player has no idea where you're going to go with the shot. If they guess wrong, you score. Of course, this takes a lot of skill to do well (and just as much skill on defense to defend).

    Because the robot is using a camera, and because the action is so fast, I can't imagine it stopping a good push shot, or even a good pop or bank shot for that matter. Similarly, I can't see it setting up good shots that a human couldn't pick out everytime. Though I think it would be easier to teach a robot offense, than defense.
    • Re:No way. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by oddjob ( 58114 )
      Actually, I think defense would be much easier to teach the robot than offense. A human player has to anticipate the shot, because their reaction time is limited. The robot's reaction time is only limited by the technology used. If 50fps isn't fast enough, optimize your code, get faster hardware, and bump it up to 100fps. Repeat as needed. To become good at offense, the robot needs ball control, which is much more than the simple blocking/hitting that this one does. It also needs to avoid becomming predicta
      • A human player has to anticipate the shot, because their reaction time is limited. The robot's reaction time is only limited by the technology used. If 50fps isn't fast enough, optimize your code, get faster hardware, and bump it up to 100fps.

        I really hope "fps" means "fooses per second", here. If not, it really should.

        (Please, for the love of Buddha, do not respond telling me what "fps" actually stands for. Go lie down until the impulse goes away.)
        • So close to lunch time, I'd prefer "fries per second". Though, since foosball is the most exercise I'm likely to get today, I should probably have a salad instead.
      • I think it won't be difficult to build a good offensive robot. It won't be pretty or strategic but effective:

        1) increase framerate of video capture to a rate such that you can block any shot from the next row

        2) beef up the motors etc to be able to react to any shot from the next row

        3) whenever the opponent shoots, whack the ball in a random forward direction...

        I reckon the game would be so confusing and fast that no human player would stand a chance. Plus, if you can't score you can't win.. machines don
        • That wouldn't really be a good offensive robot, just a good defensive one that wins with endurance. A good offensive robot would be one that scores on a higher percentage of its shots. To really make a more interesting problem, you could include performance limits in the rules. For example, you could set limits on how many frames per second the machine can see, how fast it can move its players, etc. Then you would need a better strategy than "hit and pray" to win.
    • Re:No way. (Score:2, Interesting)

      Just by watching some of the video clips, it occurred to me that, while it's true the computer would be at a disadvantage on defense, it's strength is in it's ability to pick up the ball as it rebounds off a player or wall and quickly convert it into a shot. I imagine even a pro would have a difficult time with this. Imagine as the technology progresses, the computer's offense and defense would merge somewhat as it would be able to pick up the opponent's shots and passes and stuff them right back into your
    • Well, I can see a computer being able to block a shot. Just depends on how much force you're willing to allow it to expend in order to catch up to the ball. What I can't see a computer being able to do, is block a brush pass. It would have to know the rotational velocity of the ball before it hit the wall based on the speed of your brush *and* it's guess about the amount of downforce you used when you brushed it. So, not only would it have to track the ball, it would have to resolve the finer details an
      • The standard defense for the snake is to simply keep the defenders in constant motion and hope the shot deflects back into your 5-bar.

        You must lose a lot if you use that defense against humans. It's probably the best bet against a machine that doesn't try to read the defense (shoots random holes) but a good goalie is going to use a lot of baits and stints against a human opponent.

        Watch Louis Cartwright (2001 Worlds finals tape is a good one to get) or Bobby Diaz sometime--their shuffle is decidely not r
        • You must lose a lot if you use that defense against humans. It's probably the best bet against a machine that doesn't try to read the defense (shoots random holes) but a good goalie is going to use a lot of baits and stints against a human opponent.

          I do alright.

          As for baiting and defense, I'm sorry, but very few defenders can block an effective snake shot even 1/3 of the time. This may be a difference in our experiences playing, but I've yet to see a defender able to consistently stop a snake, especiall
          • As for baiting and defense, I'm sorry, but very few defenders can block an effective snake shot even 1/3 of the time.

            I've played several pro-masters including Terry Moore (first person to win a national event shooting the snake and the #2 ranked player in the world) and Billy Pappas (who not only shoots cutbacks but can walk the ball around the goal face like a euro).

            Probably 2 of the more effective snakes in the world (Terry's is one of the top 5 for sure), but neither of them scored better than 50% on
  • by reg106 ( 256893 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @11:54AM (#6068095)
    No really, I'm serious. This robot's playing style is more akin to what we call "whackball." Better foosball players remain in contact with the ball a lot longer, "palming" the ball with the face of the man to do quick changes in direction, fakes, and more. There's some video available here [umich.edu] on the right side of the page.

    Of course, there have been robots interacting with dynamic environments in similar ways for a long time, such as juggling [umich.edu] and running [rhex.net]. It's a big jump to go to the next level, which requires chaining together sequences of difficult actions, such as palming the ball, passing, and shooting. But I think foosball is a great place to explore such dynamical interaction and action composition, and I'm jealous that they beat me to building a table.
  • Haven't any of you nerds watched the Animatrix? Have we learned nothing?

    And a robot vs human in soccer by 2050 is laughable. Yeah maybe there'll be one that can play against a human age 2.
  • by mattsucks ( 541950 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @12:59PM (#6068592) Homepage
    from current world table football champions [uefa.com]:

    With millions of players and competitions being held worldwide, in 1993, Frenchman Laurent Garnier decided to create an independent world-governing association, now known as the Federation of International Sports Table Football (FISTF).
  • For all of you out there that don't think you can do anything with foosball except drink and talk trash, check out the money you can win at regional, national and international tourneys. VIFA and USTSA [vifa.com]
  • So THATS how it all started. Red Team, Blue Team. Humans versus Machines...we are all doomed!
    Or maybe I should unplug from the matrix hype once in awhile.
  • How to be a playa (Score:3, Informative)

    by evilninja ( 261516 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @02:23PM (#6069300)
    I've seen a lot of arguments against this machine in this small thread, but the prominent two seem to be A) foosball doesn't require strategy (like chess) and B) it will be easy to beat.

    As an avid foosball player, I first want to refute the "lack of strategy" argument for foosball. I play frequently with Tom Spear [coloradofoosball.com] and Robbie Mares [foosballworld.com], two of the greatest foosball players in the world. (I don't know about elsewhere in the world, but in America they are known as "Pro Masters," not "grandmasters.") Either one of those guys will tell you that foosball is like a game of chess on speed. The amount of skill you posess for the game will only take you so far. At a certain point, the game becomes almost entirely mental.

    Players reach a skill level where they can, physically, do whatever they want to do with the ball. For a pass or a shot, they choose their hole before they even start to move the ball. Trying to defend the pass or the shot is a matter of being able to predict your opponent's maneuver; if you try to play a straightforward defense and watch to see where they're going, then race them to the opening...you'll lose every time.

    That said, I think that a machine could be a very worthy competitor. With a fine-tuned history-based decision-making algorithm for baiting and blocking shots, I'm sure it could play great defense if it's fast enough. As far as offense, I'm sure the machine could hit all sorts of angles and speed shots with deadly precision. It will just take time to teach it how to play.

    If you're at all interested in more foosball stuff, check out the Valley International Foosball Association and the United States Table Soccer Association [vifa.com]. If you like to play, you should check out some local tournaments. For Colorado, we've got our own site [coloradofoosball.com] and you might have one for your area, too. Speaking on behalf of tournament players everywhere, we'd love for you to come play our tournaments.

  • How do you make the robot buy you a beer when you win? If you lose, what do you buy it -- a can of WD-40?
  • Oh great (Score:2, Funny)

    by Kiro ( 220724 )
    I will now forever be remembered as a robot. thanks a bunch!

"Trust me. I know what I'm doing." -- Sledge Hammer

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