Are 3D printers too boring? How about robot air hockey instead?

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An intriguing video has emerged showing the parts used to construct a 3D printer re-imagined to create a robotic air hockey opponent.

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The machines may not have figured out how to send robots back in time to kill yet, but if John Connor challenges them to a air hockey game instead, they may have just got a helping hand from hardware hacker Jose Julio.

Watch the video:

He took the parts from the open source RepRap 3D printer project – but rather than assemble them to print, used the belt and motor systems to guide an air hockey paddle. Apparently it uses three motors – two for the Y axis and one for X. Apparently in designing the paddles, he went through several iterations in an attempt to make them as lightweight as possible – so the puck would move faster when in play.

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The tricky part appears to have been then giving the robot hockey player some intelligence. To do this, Julio rigged up a camera to look down on the table (a PS3 eye camera, in fact), which would then track the locations of the paddle, puck and human player, and then attempt to predict the trajectory that the puck would be coming from. Apparently one of the key things was to build it so that every time a new calculation was made it could quickly cancel the one before – so rather than have the paddle sliding over to where it isn’t needed, it could reposition to new circumstances.

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What’s cool too is that apparently if you have the time and talent to replicate the project for yourself, the strategy programming is a separate, easily configurable module of the code – so theoretically you could build different virtual opponents with different playing styles.

I, for one, welcome our new air-hockey playing robot overlords.

James O’Malley
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