FPGAs Keep Track of your Ping Pong Game

It’s graduation time, and you know what that means! Another great round of senior design projects doing things that are usually pretty unique. [Bruce Land] sent in a great one from Cornell where the students have been working on a project that uses FPGAs and a few video cameras to keep score of a ping-pong game.

The system works by processing a live NTSC feed of a ping pong game. The ball is painted a particular color to aid in detection, and the FPGAs that process the video can keep track of where the net is, how many times the ball bounces, and if the ball has been hit by a player. With all of this information, the system can keep track of the score of the game, which is displayed on a monitor near the table. Now, the players are free to concentrate on their game and don’t have to worry about keeping score!

This is a pretty impressive demonstration of FPGAs and video processing that has applications beyond just ping pong. What would you use it for? It’s always interesting to see what students are working on; core concepts from these experiments tend to make their way into their professional lives later on. Maybe they’ll even take this project to the next level and build an actual real, working ping pong robot to work with their scoring system!

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The Amazing Ping-Pong Robot was Fake

Well — you guys were right. As it turns out, it was actually a pair of animators who fooled the internet.

Not sure what we’re talking about? Last month, the [Kuka Robot Group] put out a highly polished video showing an industrial robot playing table tennis against the apparent world champion of the sport — it was extremely well done and entertaining to watch, but unfortunately… also fake. Weeks after the first [Kuka] video came out, someone named [Ulf Hoffmann] released another video, a small table tennis playing robot that looked almost feasible.

As some of our readers pointed out:

The movements seemed unnatural for the size of the servos and arm structure. ~ James

CGI. As others have pointed out, the shadow of the arm disappears when the robot is show from the side, even though they were added in the other shots. ~ Brandon

My cgi tip off was the cable under the table. It stretches instead of sliding around. ~ Aj

Notice it’s running Outlook Express and Internet Explorer – no self respecting hacker/maker would run those apps – lol. ~ vonskippy

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Real or Fake? The Amazing Ping-Pong Robot

Would you like to play a robot in ping pong (translated)? We sure would. Inspired by an upcoming face-off between man and machine, [Jakob] wrote in to tell us about [Ulf Hoffmann’s] ping-pong playing robot. If you ever wanted to play ping-pong when no one else was around or are just sick and tired of playing against the same opponents this project is for you. Boy is this thing amazing; you simply must see the robot in action in the video after the break.

While the robot’s build is not documented all in one post, [Ulf Hoffmann’s] blog has many videos and mini posts about how he went about building the paddle wielding wonder. The build runs the range from first ideas, to hand-drawn sketches, to the technical drawings seen above. From these the parts of the arm were built, but the mechanical assembly is only one portion of the project. It also required software to track the ball and calculate how to properly return it. Be sure to browse through his past posts, there is a wealth of information there.

Also be sure to check in on March 11th to see who wins the epic face-off between man and machine. See the trailer (the second embedded video) after the break.

UPDATE: Many commentators are calling this one a fake. It’s so sad to think that, because this is a really cool project. But we’ve changed the title and are asking you to weigh in on whether you think it is real or fake. We’ve also contacted [Ulf] and asked if it is real hardware, or a CGI enhanced video. We’ll let you know if/when we hear back from him.

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