Robot Cheats at Rock Paper Scissors

It is hard enough to beat computers at games like chess. Now robotics engineers at the Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory in Japan have created a janken robot that wins every time (if you didn’t know, janken is the Japanese name for rock-paper-scissors). How can it win every time? Easy. It cheats.

The janken robot evolved through three different versions. In the first version, the robotic hand would note the human player’s hand with a high-speed camera and then move the hand to a winning counter play with about a 20 millisecond delay. In the second version, the delay was greatly reduced.

However, in the third version, the robot uses a scanning technique to capture an entire field of view and determines what play the human is making. Again, a winning counter play is instantly produced by the robotic hand.

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Robotic rock-paper-scissors never lets you win

So robots kick our butts at tic-tac-toe, chess, Jeopardy, and now they’re the dominant species at rock-paper-scissors too. This robot arm will outmatch your at the game every single time. It’s not just fast enough to keep up, but it figures out what you’re planning to do and reacts according. All of this happens way to fast for you to catch it in the act.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo came up with the idea of combining high-speed vision with a high-speed hand. Apparently one millisecond is all it takes to analyze what move you’ve chosen. The time it takes for the hand to form the conquering position is only marginally longer than that. As you can see in the clip after the break, it already knows the protocol of 1-2-3 shoot and doesn’t need any operator intervention to start a new game, or repeatedly school you on trying to compete with a machine.

We’ve been beaten at the game by a machine before. This is just first time that the human player doesn’t need to wear special equipment and the machine has moved from a virtual hand to a physical one.

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