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Omron latest table tennis-playing robot is a smash hit


Omron has made further advancements in its table tennis robot, Forpheus, which can now toss the ball, hit serves and take a smash. 

The company, which is fast making its mark as a leader in global robotics, upgrades its star attraction robot each year to demonstrate its revolutionary “Sensing & Control + Think” technology. 

It’s all about how humans can work harmoniously with machines.

Beginners as well as advanced players can test their table tennis skills against this fun loving, finely turned robot.

A master of table tennis rallies, Forpheus has now been given a serve functionality and smash-handling functionality.

And with two on-board robots at work, Forpheus now becomes the world’s first robot to have the ability to toss the ball and hit a serve.

Omron has aimed at achieving human-machine harmony since introducing Forpheus to the world in 2013. The company continues to advance this technology on the core idea of having machines that draw out human capability.

Forpheus understands each style of play

Now in its fourth generation, Omron says this year’s Forpheus – which stands for Future Omron Robotics Technology for Exploring Possibility of Harmonized Automation with Sinic Theoretics – comes with a new axis in its evolution.

They have created a machine that understands the characteristics of a person and will adapt its dealings with them accordingly.

Last year, Omron introduced its time-series deep learning AI technology, making it possible for Forpheus to take what it has learnt and use this to make judgments about its opponent’s level of play and match this level in its returns.

This means people of all playing levels can enjoy rallies with this table tennis robot.

Since Forpheus was first launched he has challenged hundreds of opponents rallies with exhibitions in Japan and overseas.

But at that time, not every player was able to fully enjoy those table tennis rallies.

Advanced players who delivered smashes would find their rallies drew to an end right almost immediately and beginners had difficulty of tossing the ball and serving it themselves.

To overcome this, the fourth-generation Forpheus comes outfitted with the functionality to deal with the smashes that advanced players want to throw at it, as well as functionality for taking over serving duties for those beginners who struggle with this opening play. 

Further, Forpheus is now implemented with functionality to take rally outcomes and use this information to provide feedback through music and commentary.

New features include:

Serve functionality

  • The serve functionality in Forpheus aids in opening a rally by having the robot take on this responsibility in place of opponents at the beginner level, some 30 percent of whom fail with their serves.
  • A newly added articulated robot (Omron Viper 650) for tossing the ball and two controllers used by Forpheus are synchronously controlled at under 1/100ths of a second to result in two robot types working together to toss the ball and serve it just like a person.

Smash-handling functionality

  • By using a human body sensor to detect its opponent’s movement and analysing the information using time-series deep learning AI technology, Forpheus reads the signs of a smash hit coming from the opponent.
  • When the table tennis robot determines its opponent is going for a smash hit, it predicts where the ball will be delivered and gets into ready position.
  • Further, with an accelerated algorithm for tracking the ball, Forpheus is now capable of dealing with smashes of 40-80km/h.

The technologies used in the development of Forpheus hold the promise of being useful in Omron’s business pursuits to create a better society.

The synchronous control and algorithm-accelerating technology at work in the robot are being utilized in manufacturing sites, such as for bulk picking.

And Omron’s “world-first” On-board Driver Monitoring Sensor, launched recently, was developed using the same time-series deep learning AI technology as employed in the new generation Forpheus.

Omron will continue to use developments in the Forpheus table tennis robot to help further advance the company’s Sensing & Control + Think core technology.

This technology will help the company to develop a deeper understanding of people and enhance human-machine harmony that brings out human capabilities and creativity.

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