Air hockey robot

Don’t be ashamed, we suck at air hockey too. Luckily for us, we now have a robot opponent to blame or losing streak on. Engineers at Nuvation didn’t build this air hockey playing robot, they simply adapted a standard industrial robot arm for the task. It is controlled jointly by a ColdFire processor and a 9S08 microcontroller. An array of high power LEDs and a camera are positioned over the air hockey table, which captures the position of the puck. The robot reportedly wins 90% of its games, even against solid opponents. While this is more of project to show the power of ColdFire processors, we can’t help but think it will lead to a rash of unbeatable robot opponents. We’ve already been robo-owned at foosball; what’s next?


  1. Archeious says:

    Neat, I wish it was a bit more aggressive with its offensive moves.

  2. yurijm says:

    cool, the algorithm is not that great like the robot socccer (the RoboCUP ones) but it’s still very good!

  3. Rafal says:

    Quite nice, but not too much. Basically I can see 3 parts in it.

    One is detecting white disc on blue background using a camera located directly above. I don’t thing it’s anything very sophisticated for today’s standards.

    Next we have a game algorithm. Again, making a computer play air hockey shouldn’t be a rocket science. On the video you can see that computer actually sucks at putting the disk into opponent’s net (come one, you can do better than that).

    And finally we have the robot (arm).

    Not very spectacular but still nice stuff. Nice as a project “done because I can” or to gain some experience but as a research I’d say it’s nothing spectacular.

  4. miked says:

    i approve of this post.

    not sure why, but i believe this worthy.

  5. rasz says:

    hahaha, Robot screws BADLY from the 1.20 mark as the CEO aka BS talking head starts to explain how awesome this robot is.
    -it misses the puck
    -it lets human score few shots
    -its unable to bounce the puck back on the other side of the table

  6. Fivelo says:

    I think it’s a cool showcase for the technology, really impressed by the speed & accuracy of the robot even if that’s not a new feature.

    As far as the ‘AI’ goes, I’d say they need to look into more organic programming, set the basic rules (i.e. don’t let puck enter own goal, reject puck on trajectory to other goal…etc) and let it find the best way of doing things statistically :)

    Ahem… Would’ve taken them longer than 2 months though and as it’s only a POC / showcase probably not cost-effective.

    Good stuff anyway :)

  7. Mohan says:

    Hi all, thanks for the comments.

    I am the lead technical engineer at Nuvation on this project. I just wanted to clear up a few things we have seen on some websites.

    It is correct that Nuvation didn’t build the industrial robot arm itself; however we did build a custom processor interface board which connects together the machine vision system, Coldfire processor, and Robot Arm. Nuvation is a full-service electronics and software design-house, and we are capable of a wide variety of technical services, including complex PCB design (analog/digital/mixed-signal), FPGA/logic design, embedded software design, RF and signal integrity, and turn-key product design — all the way through manufacturing. We also help a lot of companies architect new products, or troubleshoot existing products. The Air Hockey Robot was a special project for a tradeshow.

    And yes, I can confirm that we completed this project in just over 2 months, mainly because we were asked to do this project about 2.5 months before the tradeshow. I will admit there were several long work weeks however. :)

    If you have any other questions on the demo or Nuvation, feel free to email me.

  8. Dave says:

    Pretty sure that’s a FANUC robot?
    Looks like the LR-Mate.

  9. Susie says:

    Thoughtful post and well written. Please write more on this if you have time.

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