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Omron’s ping-pong robot built to rally


Staff writer

Seeking a ping-pong partner who never tires?

Omron Corp. might have granted your wish with a robot unveiled Tuesday that can continuously rally — or at least until its batteries run out.

Unlike robots that were developed to outsmart humans at chess or shogi, this model is more about helping humans, explained a representative from Omron, a Kyoto-based firm that manufactures electronic components.

It makes the perfect practice partner because it’s designed to sense the position and racket location of its adversary and return the ball to the best spot for an easy return. It also uses 3-D data to calculate the ball’s movement and determine the optimum timing and force of the return shot, said Masayoshi Higuchi, a supervisor in Omron’s planning and promotion division.

The robot is capable of doing rallies of more than 100 strokes, Higuchi said.

While the large tripodal robot isn’t cuddly or sleek, it was attracting considerable attention on the opening day of CEATEC, Japan’s biggest consumer electronics and IT trade show.

Higuchi said Omron hopes it conveys an image of humans and machines working together while showcasing off the firm’s sensing and control technologies.

Unfortunately, for would-be ping-pong pros, the company has no plans to put it on the market.