Billiards is a fun sport because anyone can play it, even if you’ve had a couple of drinks. It is entertaining, and fun to play when betting your friends for a little extra cash and play money. But before you get too cocky, there might be a new kid on the block, and “it” might be a lot harder to beat, than the friends you’ve been playing with at the local billiards hall.

There was a great article in NewScientist TV, along with a video titled; “Born to Be viral: Pool-Playing Robot Rivals Humans,” which appeared on June 9, 2011 and there were articles throughout the science news circuit. The article states;

“Pool sharks, beware: a new robot will give you a run for your money. It’s definitely not the fastest player but it completed 400 shots with an 80 per cent success rate with two arms that can move in seven different ways. Cameras mounted above the table track the position of the balls and cue, and feed this information to the robot’s computers. It decides on the best move, calculates orients, and shoots. To get into position, it rolls around the table using predetermined coordinates”

On MIT Technology Review Blog Network on the MIMS Blog there was another write-up posted on June 11, 2011 titled; “How Robots Will Beat Humans at Billiards” by Christopher Mims where he writes;

“Pool makes chess and Jeopardy look like child’s play – all the more reason to develop new technologies — and further humiliate the human race — by tackling this unique computational challenge.”

In watching this robotic system play, it seems to have very little problem doing direct shots. Its accuracy is not 100% doing bank shots off the wall, but it is close, and better than me. Perhaps not better than a professional player, but it can surely compete against anyone in any of the billiards halls I’ve ever been to. This new device might work quite well for billiards hall owners as it allows humans to challenge it, and perhaps win a prize if they can beat it. Right now, it has its own software, and it does not have artificial intelligence, so it doesn’t get better the more it plays, it always plays at the same level.

However, I expect in the future that artificial intelligence will be added to this unit, and that it will be extremely hard to beat getting better after each mistake or win, honing in on its ultimate accuracy. The fact that it can do these calculations so easily, and repeat them, as if it was nothing more than a simple task is a little unnerving for anyone who’s ever tried to master the game. Nevertheless, this is the future that we will see going forward.

I’m actually surprised that we haven’t seen more billiards robots show up in science fiction movies. This robot looked like something out of a science fiction movie, but it is current technology, it exists, and it is quite good. It’s real, this is a trick photography, or some ambitious project to make a viral video. Indeed, I hope you will go to YouTube and look it up, and see which you think. It seems like something that would be great to practice with, and improve your skills at billiards. Please consider all this and think on it.

Leave a Reply