Willow Garage's PR2 robot learns to play pool (w/ Video)

Jun 17, 2010 by Lin Edwards report
Image credit: IEEE.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A Willow Garage "Poolshark" team has programmed one of its robots - in under a week - to play pool, and to play it quite impressively.

Willow Garage is a Silicon Valley startup that likes to push the limits for its developers and their robots, while having fun at the same time. The pool-playing project was one of the company’s “hackathons” or week-long endurance sessions. Early projects have taught the robot, PR2 ( 2), to fold towels, open office doors, and plug itself into wall outlets to recharge its batteries.

The robot’s locates and tracks the balls and helps the robot orient itself with respect to the table via diamonds marked on the rails. A bottom laser sensor enables it to identify the pool table legs. The robot executes its shots with the aid of FastFiz, an open-source pool physics program developed by Alon Altman, and a specially designed grip and bridge that enables the robot to position the cue.

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The PR2 platform uses a powerful library known as ROS, which the team was able to use to quickly adapt FastFiz for their own use.

There are two more week-long hackathons to come in June. The first is to train the PR2 to push a cart, and the second is to go and fetch a drink from the refrigerator.

Willow Garage recently donated 11 of their PR2 robots to research institutions around the world, which they hope will encourage rapid growth in robotics research and development. Founder of Willow Garage, Scott Hassan, has a vision of bringing robots into our everyday lives, rather than seeing them confined to use in industry.

The pool-playing software has been made available for the use of other developers via the billiards stack on the ROS.org website .

Explore further: A robot dives into search for Malaysian Airlines flight

More information: Willow Garage post: www.willowgarage.com/blog/2010/06/15/pr2-plays-pool

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3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 18, 2010
It missed a couple of easy shots. How do we know that isn't a hustling subroutine? Maybe just some emergent behavior that wasn't programmed?

Robot: "Man, missed again. Must be solar flares".
Programmer:" Bet you a recharge you can't make the next one".
Robot: "Well, I'll give it my best shot.......".
(runs the table)
not rated yet Jun 18, 2010
hmm.. A robot that can connect a power cord ?
A power cord or a pool stick is a very dangerous toy for a robot to have.
The military implications for something like this are SCARY . Think of total world domination terminator style.
not rated yet Jun 18, 2010
Long way off from that at the moment, a compact power source & lighter alloys are just a few of the things that are still eluding us.

Of course eventually it will happen, wont it, we just can't help ourselves.
not rated yet Jun 20, 2010
there will never be a human/robot war.... we will go the way of the borg and assimilate ourselves into our robots... The union of the biological and the technological is inevitable... we all read the stuff here and it isn't a stretch of the imagination that within 25yrs we will have Pepsi powered prosthetics, implantable IC's that seamlessly and rather naturally are integrated into our brains, imagine a supercomputer integrated with your mind... It seems more likely that we'll become fused with the technology long before we become capable of writing "autonomous" thought within a computer.

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