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This iPhone-controlled robot will destroy you… in air hockey

Published Dec 26th, 2016 6:22PM EST
iphone robot
Image: Jose Julio

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There are countless games on the App Store that will make you feel inferior to a computer-controlled opponent. Almost all of those apps will beat you with in a virtual game world where your digital enemies have the advantage, but there’s one that brings its butt-kicking skills into reality, just for that extra bit of humiliation. It’s the Air Hockey Robot EVO app by JJRobots, and it works in tandem with an open source, do-it-yourself robot that is so good at blocking shots you’ll feel like you’re playing against an air hockey master.

The robot is really nothing more than some Arduino bits, pulleys, and bars, and many of the components can be 3D-printed at home thanks to the freely available build plans and blueprints. Once the building is done, the bot uses the smartphone as both its eyes and its brain, detecting the position of the puck and paddles with its built-in camera and performing calculations to predict trajectory in real time.

The result is a virtual opponent that plays in the real world, with multiple difficulty levels and a genuine sense of competition. You can even control the robot directly from the app by dragging your finger around the play screen, which the robot will then mimic. It’s an amazing DIY project and being beaten by your iPhone at real air hockey will undoubtedly make you feel a much more tangible sense of shame than losing a round of Flappy Bird.

Developer JJRobots has priced out the parts you’ll need to complete the build on its website, totaling just over $175. The app that controls the action is currently available for Android, and will be coming to iPhone in 2017, so sharpen your air hockey skills while you still can.

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