This Robot Can Kick Your Butt at Foosball

Humanity has all but given up on trying to beat computers at chess.  It’s a pathetic situation for us glorified monkeys, actually.  Regarding computer vs. human chess matches, McGill computer scientist Monty Newborn has literally said:

“The science is done.”

Keep in mind that Newborn uttered that bleak (or if you are a robotics fanatic, happy) sentence back in 2009.  Since ’09, computers have shrunk in size– but they’ve gotten even better at eating grandmasters for breakfast.

When it comes to chess, robots rule and humans drool. 

Now when grandmasters play against the machines, they need to use cute little “handicaps” to even the odds.

Back in 1996 when Kasparov first lost to Deep Blue, the computers needed a gigantic rack of scary looking hardware to take on humanity.  Today, you can download an chess app called Komodo that is just as capable of making humankind’s brightest minds facepalm themselves repeatedly.

After wiping the floor with our butts in chess, the robots have decided that it’s time to show us how foosball is done.  Enter: EPFL’s foosball robot.

All hail the foosball robots!

We might as well bow down before the foosball bot now.  It already looks pretty good– and it’s getting better every time it plays.

How does it work?

First a camera outfitted under the table tracks the ball’s position.  Next, the robot narrows in for the kill by sliding the plastic players into position.  Then– when the opportunity to score is ripe– the foosball robot’s rotational motors whap the crap out of the foosball, sending it flying towards the goal.


Project coordinator Christophe Salzmann tasked his engineers with building a robot that’s faster, stronger and more accurate than any human opponent.  If the current version of the bot is any indication, it probably won’t be long before they accomplish that goal.

They’re Watching You…

Currently, the foosbot seems good.  Its motors look muscular.  But it still probably needs to rely on luck to win a match.

But here’s the creepy part: the robot is using laser beams to monitor its opponents.  The stronger the human opponent it takes on, the more skills the robot will be able to absorb.  With time, foosbot will soak up all the best human strategies.


Once the foosball robot gets smart enough to learn a few tactics, it might stop playing with humans altogether.  The team at EPFL plans to have its foosball robots play against each other once they get smart enough to do so.

Watch the Foosball Robot in Action


About Alex Munkachy

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