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Why you’ll never win Rocks—Paper—Scissors again

Thu, 07/12/2012 - 10:02am
Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor

Prepare yourselves, board game junkies, the robots are taking over.

If you’re one of those people who is naturally gifted at board games—not your humble editor—it’s time to stand up and take notice. Advances in artificial intelligence are allowing designers the ability and tools to create robots your tiny human brain can’t possibly compete with.

Talk about knocking your humans-as-intelligent-life-forms way of thinking down a couple of pegs.

Rock—Paper—Scissors: You Lose
Rock-Paper-Scissors, the decider of every childhood--okay, okay, adult—decision has a new heavyweight player. A team from the Ishikawa Oku Lab at the University of Toyko  has designed a high-speed robotic hand, that can judge which move you’re going to throw out pretty much at the moment you decide. The hand, using a high-speed camera, waits for subtle clues based on your hand shape to indicate if you’re going to throw rock, paper, or scissors. It might seem a bit like cheating, but it only takes one millisecond to decide, so it’s impossible to track. The machine wins 100 percent of the time. Clearly, the game is just for fun, but the technology could be useful for future human/robot symbiotic relationships on factory floors or medical facilities.


Connect4: You Lose
Łukasz Kaiser of Paris Diderot University has developed an algorithm that allows a computer—4 GB ram and single processor core—to win games like Connect4 and Gomoku after watching two-minute videos of games played with various outcomes. After analyzing all the outcomes, the computer was able to calculate all possible moves before selecting the best one.  The system uses various logics including pure first-order logic (FO), existential and guarded FO, and the transitive closure logic, plus the formulas integrated a general game playing program so the computer was able to understand rows, columns, diagonals, and differentiating pieces, according to the paper.

Let’s hope this technology never expands to besting humans at the game of Life.

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