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Robot Trained as Master Swordfighter

Posted by cirvine on June 10, 2015


Project Almanac movie poster

Well, we’ve gone and done it now. We’ve trained a robot to use a sword. A SWORD. You know, those sharp, stabby, deadly things. But it’s okay; I’m not worried. It’s not like every AI movie ever has warned us about arming robots or anything. Sigh. Trepidation aside, this experiment from Yaskawa, a company specializing in servos and servos motors, is pretty neat.

The goal of the “Yaskawa Bushido Project” was to computerize the precision needed to swing a sword at different objects, at different speeds and at a variety of angles. The company partnered with Isao Machii, a master in Iaido and the Iaijutsu sword fighting technique. Standing side by side with the MH24 robot, the one-armed machine is able to mimic Machii’s movements through muscle sensory data.  

Together they complete five challenges, slicing through tree stalks, flowers and fruit. The peapod trial is especially impressive, as the machine slices horizontally through the exact middle of the peapod, slicing it in two equal parts. The last challenge is about speed, where they each cut through a thousand practice targets. By the end of all the challenges, Machii is sweating and clearly exhausted. The Terminator-- I mean, the machine-- looks like he could cut 10,000 more.

Terrifying robotic overlord predictions notwithstanding, the implications of this experiment are fascinating. If we can train something so seemingly inflexible and rigid to do something so fluidic, with such finesse, think of all the other things we can train robots to do:  medical procedures, training, emergency response. I just hope the emergency they’re not responding to is the stab wound my robot gave me.

Check out the video here: