Forget Chess, They've Made A Genius Robot That Plays Jenga!

Forget Chess, They've Made A Genius Robot That Plays Jenga!”

Each time the arm pushed the block, a connected computer recorded the force and visual measurements, and compared those measurements to previous moves.

From watching the robot in action, the most impressive thing it does is try blocks to see how easily they'll move and then stop if it looks as though continuing to push will collapse the tower.

Now engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a robot that performs a seemingly more frivolous task: playing Jenga.

MIT Professor, Alberto Rodriguez, says games like Jenga require "the mastery of physical skills such as probing, pushing, pulling, placing and aligning parts".

A steady hand is needed to play a game like Jenga without toppling the tower, but being a successful block-stacker also requires a fine-tuned sense of touch as you try to find the ideal piece to remove.

"In a cellphone assembly line, in nearly every single step, the feeling of a snap-fit, or a threaded screw, is coming from force and touch rather than vision", Rodriguez said. The paper's lead author Nima Fazeli tells ZDNet, "The robot has to deal with real-world noisy sensors and partial information". The team also includes Miquel Oller, Jiajun Wu, Zheng Wu, and Joshua Tenenbaum, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT.

For the uninitiated, Jenga comprises 54 rectangular blocks stacked in 18 layers of three blocks each, with the blocks in each layer oriented perpendicular to the blocks below.

Watch the video until the end and you will see how the Jenga game looks through the "eyes" of the robot. Within around 300 attempts, the robot learned to intelligently anticipate its moves, guessing which blocks would be more hard to move than others, and which might cause the tower to collapse. It then exerted a small amount of force in an attempt to push the block out of the tower.

Rather than performing thousands of such attempts, the robot was trained on just about 300 attempts. In as little as a 100 games, it figured out that trying to move a block that wouldn't easily slide was not beneficial to the game's progression. For each data cluster, the robot developed a simple model to predict a block's behavior given its current visual and tactile measurements. The team found the success rate of the robot in keeping the tower upright while removing the wooden blocks was nearly on a par with that of human players.

Robots are an increasingly common feature of everyday life, whether they are cleaning your house or stacking shelves at the grocery store. "Compared with our approach, these algorithms need to explore orders of magnitude more towers to learn the game".

"This is the way robotics and AI needs to be moving together", he said, adding that the robot learns by playing in a similar way that a human would.

The goal of the project isn't to create a Jenga master, but to improve the way artificial intelligence interacts with the physical world.

For now, the team is less interested in developing a robotic Jenga champion, and more focused on applying the robot's new skills to other application domains.

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