A robot built by a team of researchers at MIT in America has two prongs for fingers, sensors in its wrist, and a camera for eyes.
As the AI-powered bot surveys the tower, one of its prongs is told by software to poke a block, which sends feedback to its sensor to work out how movable that particular block is. If it’s too stiff, the robot will try another block, and keep pushing in millimetre increments until it has protruded far enough to be removed and placed on top of the tower.
Prodding until you find a suitable block to push may seem like cheating, but, well, given the state of 2019 so far, we’ll take a rule-stretching robot any day. Here it is in action…
“Unlike in more purely cognitive tasks or games such as chess or Go, playing the game of Jenga also requires mastery of physical skills such as probing, pushing, pulling, placing, and aligning pieces,” said Alberto Rodriguez, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, this week.
“It requires interactive perception and manipulation, where you have to go and touch the tower to learn how and when to move blocks. This is very difficult to simulate, so the robot has to learn in the real world, by interacting with the real Jenga tower. The key challenge is to learn from a relatively small number of experiments by exploiting common sense about objects and physics.”