Robot Technology Beats Human Counterpart in Rock Paper Scissors Everytime

There they go again. The Japanese surely know how to turn the heat up. And this time they are taking the holy grail of chance and playing spoilsport.

We are talking of the rock, paper, scissors game, that great settler of conflict and arbiter of positions. If you haven’t heard of the game, here is a quick run through. Participants use hand gestures to show three components – a clenched fist shows rock, an open hand with fingers extended for paper and a V-sign for scissors. The rule is rock defeats scissors, scissors defeats paper and paper defeats rock.

A game of chance along the lines of dice throwing, drawing straws and coin flipping, rock, paper, scissors has a cult following among its adherents.

Now Japanese researchers have unveiled the janken robot which is unbeatable at the game. As a human, you don’t stand a chance at winning this game because the robot wins every time! Talk about being a killjoy.

Called the Human-Machine cooperation system, the robot is taking over this game of chance quite like other robots have taken over music, baseball and chess. But unlike its title, the robot believes in confrontation not cooperation and does not yield an inch.

Watching the robot created in the Ishikawa Oku Lab at the University of Tokyo is like watching a high-speed race that is intriguing and a bit suspicious.

The robot uses a high-speed camera that identifies the shape of your hand a millisecond before you play it. It goes without saying that we do not even notice that duration but for the robot, that tiny fraction of a fraction of time is enough to win on every single occasion.

While the game means different things in different cultures, the Japanese take it quite seriously with many adults, not just children using it to make decisions.

The janken hand is designed to mimic the human hand and its wrist joint is controlled thus. The robot plays one of three hands each time and defeats it human opponents, who can only play at a timing of one, two, three.

What the human-machine cooperation means, in the larger sense is a future breed of robots that might not need instructions to go about their work. They will be able to interact with humans and sense their requirements.

So it will be more a question of cooperation than mere interaction. In certain sectors which are dynamic with variables, the machine is given the opportunity to work in unforeseen circumstances. HMC is a step further in this regard.

While all this is wonderful, it does not take away the pain of losing yet again in what is, after all, a game of chance. Ah well, rock, paper, scissors, anyone?

If you want to know more about exceptionally machines, click here.

Sara Young
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