The machine is programmed to learn from previous launches and has managed to defeat two professional Korean champions
Curling is a sport that has come to the fore following the broadcast of the games during the Winter Olympics. The discipline is one of the most difficult and precise and requires several years the athletes to hone their skills. In curling, the player throws a granite ball, called stone, onto an ice rink and directs it towards the “home”, an area of the opposite field marked by three concentric rings. The trajectory of the stone depends on the force impressed, the rotation but also on the irregularity of the ice surface.
The high precision required and the variables involved make it very difficult to think of a robot capable of imitating physical players. Curly surprisingly succeeds. The robot is designed by researchers at Korea University, Seoul, Berlin Institute of Technology and Max Planck Institute for Informatics, Saarbrücken. The results were reported in an article published on the journal Science Robotics. The robot is equipped with two cameras placed on an extensible appendix that record the position of the stones on the track. Curly then calculates the trajectory and launches the stone thanks to a release mechanism that also allows to set the proper rotation.
To train the robot, the researchers have programmed a digital simulator that reproduces the games, instead of physically using Curly. The peculiarity of this robot is that it can respond to any unexpected and imperfections by adapting its mathematical model, as well as the physical player adapts its movement according to impromptu observations. The imperfection therefore makes Curly’s software perfect. The team estimates that it is possible to reproduce 15-20 years of professional training in a few minutes.
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