Can AI beat you at Foosball? Yes. Yes it can

'We’re struggling to keep up,” one engineering student says

Foosball
Credit: Jaren Wilkey

AI has already proved its prowess in chess, Jeopardy and the ancient game of Go, but it's now come out victorious in yet another arena: the classic game of Foosball.

A group of computer engineering students at Brigham Young University have spent the past semester creating a robotic, computer-controlled Foosball table with the goal of beating human players. The table is constructed so that a camera mounted above can track the movement of the ball, while an algorithm controls the rods on which the plastic players are attached.

Mentored by D.J. Lee, a professor at the university, the students tried to mimic how humans play the game and then programmed those ideas into their code. Essentially, they coded the computer to predict movements and adapt in real time, much the way the human brain does.

The system anticipates, kicks and scores, and humans are having a tough time holding their own, the university says. In fact, the technology reacts a lot faster than people do, Lee said.

“It’s becoming a challenge for us to beat the artificial intelligence,” said Nathan Warner, one of the robot Foosball's creators. “You think, ‘Oh yeah, humans ultimately should always be better than the computer,’ but we’re actually struggling to keep up.”

It still remains to be seen how AI will fare at Doom, one of its next challenges.

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