OMRON's updated ping pong robot can serve and take smashes

And it's probably not too late to apply for the 2020 Olympics.

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It's CEATEC, so I knew OMRON would once again bring out its massive table tennis robot to belittle us humans, but what I didn't expect was a significant performance jump this time. FORPHEUS, now at its fourth generation, features improved AI to boost its responsiveness -- so much that it can now predict and attempt to deal with smashes. Compared to the earlier versions which went easy on me, I found this one to be far more enjoyable with faster rallies. Better yet, there's now a companion robot arm that throws a ball up and lets FORPHEUS serve, thus making the robot a more realistic trainer or opponent.

Gallery: OMRON FORPHEUS table tennis robot at CEATEC 2017 | 8 Photos

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The rest of the robot is apparently the same as before. You still get a display on both sides of the "net" for showing the player's status (not that the robot needs to see it). There is a three-camera system facing the human player in the main body, and the bat below it is driven by three arms plus a 5-axis motor. These are all powered by a massive motion controller computer sat behind the stage.

While OMRON doesn't actually offer FORPHEUS as a product, the robot's aim is to help show off the company's mechanical and automation prowess to potential industrial clients. Still, I hope FORPHEUS will get to make a cameo appearance at Japan's 2020 Olympics, because at this rate, it'll likely be able to sustain some interesting games against top athletes.

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