The Ishikawa Oku Lab at the University of Tokyo specializes in “human-machine cooperation systems,” autonomous robots that can seamlessly interact with humans. They’ve demonstrated this with robots that can dribble a ball, hit a baseball, and now play rock paper scissors better than any human.
“In this research we develop a janken (rock-paper-scissors) robot with 100% winning rate as one example of human-machine cooperation systems,” their website explains. “This technology is one example that show a possibility of cooperation control within a few miliseconds. And this technology can be applied to motion support of human beings and cooperation work between human beings and robots etc. without time delay.”
Professor Masatoshi Ishikawa says the robot utilizes a 1ms high-speed camera, which captures 1,000 frames per second compared to the 30 frames per second limit of the human eye.
“This has nothing to do with prediction,” explains Ishikawa. “The robot is playing the exact same game, but it can move 33 times faster than humans. There’s no way to win.”
When the demonstration video is slowed down you can see the robot hand gestures after its human opponent.
Douglas Walker, Managing Director of the World RPS Society, doesn’t think it’s cheating.
“The highest level rock paper scissors players actually do look at people’s hands,” said Walker. However, he says the vertical paper is “technically bad form.” Paper is supposed to lay flat, horizontal to the ground.