Four engineering students from Georgia Tech have built an Autonomous Foosball Table, quite possibly the key to my never-ending quest to replace the humans in my life with robots. The funny thing is, this thing isn't just a gimmick; it may soon become a decent foosball opponent. The table system cost about $500 to build, and combines a webcam, an 800MHz Pentium PC and servo-controlled paddles to move, twist, and kick. Here's how it works:The computer runs a Java Media Framework app that tracks the ball as well as the human opponent via webcam. The PC then issues commands to a PCI microcontroller across a serial line, based on the information it's receiving. From there, the microcontroller tells the servos to either move or kick the ball. In addition, the table can predict the trajectory of the ball, lifting its midfielders in time to set up a clear shot.
Despite how awesome it looks to the layman, the project wasn't perfect according to the team. For one, they'd like to improve the moving and kicking speeds, a task which would simply require larger (and more expensive) gears. Also, they would ideally have a webcam capturing video at 60fps instead of the current 30fps. These improvements, combined with a better AI engine, could pump the table up to beating a serious player, or at least most drunk and/or stoned college kids.