It’s CEATEC, so I knew OMRON would once again bring out its massive table tennis robot to belittle us humans, but what I didn’t expect was a significant performance jump this time. FORPHEUS, now at its fourth generation, features improved AI to boost its responsiveness — so much that it can now predict and attempt to deal with smashes. Compared to the earlier versions which went easy on me, I found this one to be far more enjoyable with faster rallies. Better yet, there’s now a companion robot arm that throws a ball up and lets FORPHEUS serve, thus making the robot a more realistic trainer or opponent.
The rest of the robot is apparently the same as before. You still get a display on both sides of the “net” for showing the player’s status (not that the robot needs to see it). There is a three-camera system facing the human player in the main body, and the bat below it is driven by three arms plus a 5-axis motor. These are all powered by a massive motion controller computer sat behind the stage.
While OMRON doesn’t actually offer FORPHEUS as a product, the robot does help showing off the company’s mechanical and automation prowess to potential industrial clients. Still, I hope FORPHEUS will get to make a cameo appearance at the 2020 Olympics, because at this rate, it’ll likely be able to sustain interesting games against the top athletes by then.