New robot can play chess, pour coffee but wants a job

A robot developed by a Taiwanese institute has been playing games against opponents at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It has an “intelligent vision system” which allows it to see its environment and act with greater precision than it
A robot developed by a Taiwanese institute has been playing games against opponents at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It has an “intelligent vision system” which allows it to see its environment and act with greater precision than its peers. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LAS VEGAS • A robot developed by engineers in Taiwan can pour coffee and move chess pieces on a board against an opponent, but it is looking for a real job.

The robot, developed by Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), has been playing games against opponents at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017 in Las Vegas, displaying what its developers call an "intelligent vision system" - it can see its environment and act with greater precision than its peers.

With this enhanced vision, the robot can perform a variety of tasks for service and manufacturing roles, and can also learn on the job with artificial intelligence. Playing chess is just a hobby that showcases its visual acuity.

The vision system can recognise objects and their locations with greater precision than other robots, said ITRI division director Lewis Liu.

"Traditional robots use predefined points," Mr Liu said.

This robot has more flexibility to locate and manipulate an object, with a robotic version of hand-eye coordination, Mr Liu added.


A robot developed by a Taiwanese institute has been playing games against opponents at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It has an “intelligent vision system” which allows it to see its environment and act with greater precision than its peers. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A robot using this technology could, for example, perform household tasks such as setting and clearing a table, or assisting seniors or disabled people with meal preparation.

In an industrial setting, it would have greater flexibility than other robots in adapting to new situations. Instead of being programmed for a single task in a defined space, it could recognise when a component is a different size or at a different location.

The robot at CES showed that ability by pouring coffee for its chess opponents, regardless of where they placed their cup.

ITRI is not commercialising the robot, but it is available for work in a service or industrial job through an investor or partner, according to Mr Liu.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2017, with the headline 'New robot can play chess, pour coffee but wants a job'. Print Edition | Subscribe