The PR2 robot, built by Silicon Valley robotics firm Willow Garage, is learning new tricks everyday. After navigating around the office opening doors and plugging itself into wall outlets, and after learning how to fold towels, the robot now can play pool.
From Willow's blog:
With only a small team of developers and a week's worth of development, the PR2 can now play pool! The "Poolshark" team started last Monday and began making shots on Friday. The PR2 won't be hustling you in pool halls anytime soon, but it pocketed five shots on Friday before the team decided it was time to celebrate.
The Poolshark team dealt with numerous technical challenges throughout the week: engineering a special grip and bridge so the PR2 could hold the cue, a ball detector, table localization, visualizations and input tools, shot selector, and more.
A big thanks goes to Alon Altman for his open-source FastFiz billiards library. FastFiz is a physics and rules engine for billiards that the Poolshark team used to select which shots the PR2 should take. The Poolshark team has released its own code in the billiards stack.
June is "Hackathon" month, so there are two more one-week hackathons to come: pushing a cart and fetching a drink from a refrigerator. It's one down, two to go!
These look like promising applications. Or as Evan Ackerman at BotJunkie aptly puts it:
A robot that can play pool and fetch me beer? Hellooooo new best friend.