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China's ping-pong robots got game

Humanoids Wu and Kong, who stand 5.2 feet tall and weigh 120 pounds, are no match for human players yet, but they don't miss too often.

Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

Pong, you've come a long way, baby.

Students at China's Zhejiang University have been demonstrating a pair of humanoid robots that can play a pretty mean game of table tennis, by machine standards.

Wu and Kong stand 5.2 feet tall and weigh 120 pounds. They have camera eyes that feed real-time images of the ball to their processors at a rate of 120 frames per second.

Incorporating a high-speed industrial-automation Ethernet technology, the droids take some 50 to 100 milliseconds to respond to the ball's speed and trajectory, knocking it back to the other side of the table.

Their margin of error is less than an inch, according to Xiong Rong, head designer at the university's robot lab.

As seen in the Chinese news video below, the robots can play against each other or human opponents. They can serve and hit the ball with a forehand or backhand swing.

"The record is 144 rounds between a robot and a human," Xinhua News quoted designer Zhang Yifeng as saying.

Wu and Kong, the third generation of pong bots in a four-year project, don't have fancy footwork to match human aces.

But the researchers want to continue developing them as a robotics development platform, not necessarily to humiliate professional players--the stated goal of the Robo-Cup robot soccer tournament.

I can't wait for robots to compete in the Olympics.

(Via PhysOrg)