In the battle of man versus machine, first came computer chess. Now there’s air hockey.
Over the past several months, Spanish technophile Jose Julio has been working on a hack to turn his 3-D printer into the ultimate air hockey opponent. The perennial tinkerer said on his blog he designed and built his own 3-D printer but then started looking for ways to use the components in entirely new ways. First came B-Robot a cute, self-balancing robot on wheels (complete with glued-on eyeballs).
Then, he decided to combine his love of robotics with his young daughter's interest in air hockey.
“It seemed very complicated and with many unresolved questions (puck detection??, robot speed??), but that is also part of the fun,” Julio wrote on his blog.
In the end, he succeeded in creating an amazing robot that moves vertically and laterally to both defend its goal and shoot back offensively against a human opponent. Julio goes into intimate, step-by-step detail about how he built and mounted the components, and how he programmed the robot to respond to the puck through sensors.
So, how good is a hacked 3-D printer at air hockey?
“Well, now the robot could easily beat a child,” Julio wrote. “An adult with some experience (myself, lol) can still win [against] the robot, but I am sure that with some more small improvements it is going to be really hard to beat.”
And the robot isn’t a one-trick mechanical pony. Give it a pen and it will write you a message, throwing down the gauntlet.