When not building robots that we kill us and take over the world, researchers at MIT are working on robots that will just demoralize us and make us feel like losers. For example, this specialized robot combines vision and touch to teach itself to play Jenga. In case you’ve been living under a rock all your life, Jenga is a game of stacked wooden blocks where you have to pull out blocks without making the tower collapse.
The robot has a soft-pronged gripper, a force-sensing wrist cuff, and an external camera that allows it to “see” and “feel” the tower and the individual blocks. It can push gently against a block as the visual and tactile feedback is assessed from the camera and cuff. These forces are compared to other measurements. It can learn in real-time if the block can be removed without making the tower collapse. There’s no way we can compete with that.
Researchers think this technology would be great for things like separating recyclable objects from a landfill, and assembling consumer products. Then they just laugh at how much this robot will kick your butt at Jenga. Really they are just using their big brains to mess with us and to point and laugh.