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Gadgets

Pool-playing robot is Johnny Five meets John Virgo

Fancy shooting some stick? If it's winner stays on, this is one hustler who could take some shifting -- stick your 50p on the side and break with the pool-playing robot.

Fancy shooting some stick? If it's winner stays on, this is one hustler who could take some shifting: stick your 50p on the side and break with the pool-playing robot.

The table Terminator boasts two arms with 7-DOF -- that's degrees of freedom, robot fans, the name given to the different directions a body can move in.

A camera above the table tracks the balls and works out the angles, like in the pool hall episode of Quantum Leap. The robot works out the difficulty of each shot, separating them into different categories and working out the right-arm movement before placing the cue behind the white ball.

That gives the billiard hall replicant the best chance of potting, allowing it to hustle chumps, like Uncle Phil crossed with Johnny 5. The robot can pot up to five balls in a row, and has a success rate of up to 80 per cent from sprocket to pocket, according to Engadget.

 

The pneumatic pool shark is the masters thesis of Thomas Nierhoff at the Institute of Automatic Control Engineering at Technische Universität München. He developed the hustling automaton with colleagues Omiros Kourakos and Sandra Hirche.

The scene is set for an all-mechanoid version of Saturday tea-time favourite Big Break with the dual-armed robot taking the role of the robotic John Virgo and a printer spewing out vaguely racist jokes replacing chirpy host Jim Davidson. Other pool-playing robots include a metal hustler called Deep Green, ruling the baize with cold-hearted robotic ruthlessness.

We love a good robot, especially if it's got a party trick like answering trivia questions or unicycling, solving a Rubik's cube or opening beer bottles. We love a serious robot too, like the Kinect-powered Thunderbird-style search-and-rescuebot, iPhone-controlled gardening gadabout or the robot that's 'capable of emotions'.

Pub quizzes have been ruined by mobile phones, and it seems pool could be next. But what pub game do you think you could defeat a robot at?