If rock beats scissors, scissors beat paper, and paper beats rock, then what beats robot? NOTHING. No, really — a team of Japanese researchers has just unveiled a robot hand that cannot be beaten at rock-paper-scissors. So how does it do it? By cheating, of course. Watch it destroy all humans!
It all boils down to the robot's ability to perceive and react to its competitor at speeds that far outstrip the capabilities of any human being. From the Ishikawa Oku Laboratory, where the hand was developed:
Recognition of human hand can be performed at [1 millisecond] with high-speed vision, and the position and the shape of the human hand are recognized... The vision recognizes one of rock, paper and scissors based on the shape of the human hand. After that, the robot hand plays one of rock, paper and scissors so as to beat the human being in [1 millisecond].
Two freaking milliseconds. Just two milliseconds to read you like a dumb, fleshy book and swindle you out of a win. It's almost tempting to say that it responds to your movements "in the blink of an eye," until you realize that it takes the average human a whopping 100 milliseconds to bat their leaden lids.
If the idea of a cheating robot with reflexes much faster than your own makes you nervous, let the members of the Ishikawa Oku Lab put you at ease: the researchers say their technology could "be applied to motion support of human beings," and will one day be used to facilitate cooperation between humans and robots with virtually zero time delay.
Be that as it may, it's hard not to feel a little apprehensive once you've seen some of the other robots that the lab is working on. After a little digging, I can say that their projects are undeniably awesome — but some of them are also freakishly super-human. For your consideration:
A high-speed robot hand.
A high-precision device designed to catch a tiny ball mid-flight. With tweezers.
Check out many, many more examples of cool robotics over at the Ishikawa Oku Laboratory.