CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - A new robot from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was made with one purpose: to master the game of Jenga. Check it out above.
Equipped with a soft-pronged gripper, a force-sensing wrist cuff, and informed by an external camera, the robot pokes, pushes, and pulls blocks similarly to a human. If a block is met with little resistance, it precisely removes it. If resistance is measured, the robot chooses another block.
It's constantly evaluating its moves, "learning" whether or not its chosen move will knock down the tower.
“Unlike in more purely cognitive tasks or games such as chess or Go, playing the game of Jenga also requires mastery of physical skills such as probing, pushing, pulling, placing, and aligning pieces. It requires interactive perception and manipulation, where you have to go and touch the tower to learn how and when to move blocks,” says MIT engineer Alberto Rodriguez. “This is very difficult to simulate, so the robot has to learn in the real world, by interacting with the real Jenga tower. The key challenge is to learn from a relatively small number of experiments by exploiting common sense about objects and physics.”
Rodriguez says the tactile learning system can be used in applications other than Jenga, particularly those that need precise physical interaction.


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