Jenga is one of the most popular indoor games. The slow-moving game truly tests your patience and focus. Soon, humans will have to compete with robots in the game of Jenga. Researchers at MIT have developed a robotic arm that knows when to keep moving or switch to a new block without letting the tower fall. The arm is essentially a customised version of ABB IRB 120 robotic arm.
The humble game of Jenga has become the latest human pursuit to fall to machines, scientists have announced. In what marks significant progress for robotic manipulation of real-world objects, a Jenga-playing machine can learn the complex physics involved in withdrawing wooden blocks from a tower through physical trial and error. This differentiates it from robots that have mastered purely cognitive games such as chess and Go through visual cues. "Playing the game of Jenga also requires mastery of physical skills such as probing, pushing, pulling, placing and aligning pieces," said Prof Alberto Rodriguez from the department of mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Combining interactive perception and manipulation – whereby the robot would touch the tower to learn how and when to move blocks – is extremely difficult to simulate and therefore the robot has to learn in the real world, he added.
In the basement of MIT's Building 3, a robot is carefully contemplating its next move. It gently pokes at a tower of blocks, looking for the best block to extract without toppling the tower, in a solitary, slow-moving, yet surprisingly agile game of Jenga. The robot, developed by MIT engineers, is equipped with a soft-pronged gripper, a force-sensing wrist cuff, and an external camera, all of which it uses to see and feel the tower and its individual blocks. As the robot carefully pushes against a block, a computer takes in visual and tactile feedback from its camera and cuff, and compares these measurements to moves that the robot previously made. It also considers the outcomes of those moves -- specifically, whether a block, in a certain configuration and pushed with a certain amount of force, was successfully extracted or not.
A robotic arm capable of playing the popular game Jenga has been built by American engineers. The machine, developed by MIT engineers, is equipped with a soft-pronged gripper, a force-sensing wrist cuff and an external camera. This enables it to see and feel the movement of the tower and adjust for each individual block. It monitors and tracks the feedback from the blocks and the machine makes subtle adjustments to avoid toppling the tower and losing the game. A computer takes in visual and tactile feedback via the cameras and cuff, and compares these measurements to moves that the robot previously made.
Artificial intelligence is already better than humans at video games, quiz shows and an ancient Chinese board game. Next up, the bots are coming for Jenga. In a newly-published paper, scientists from MIT describe how they taught a robot real-world physics and a practical sense of touch by unleashing it on the tricky tower-building game. Because unlike purely cognitive games that rely on visual cues, such as chess or Go, Jenga "requires mastery of physical skills such as probing, pushing, pulling, placing and aligning pieces," claims MIT's Prof Alberto Rodriguez. The robot (equipped with force sensors and cameras) immediately began prodding and poking the Jenga blocks using its two-pronged arm.