As technology evolves, we may reach a point where its true worth can’t be measured in how much work we can get out of it. Maybe someday, robots — and the people who make them — will be judged by how much fun we can have with them. It’s speculation at this point, but not for lack of trying; there’s at least one out there more than willing to play along.
Tokyo’s Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory is the home of Janken. The robot was designed with one purpose above all others in mind: playing rock-paper-scissors with anyone who dares to challenge it. As expected, it’s very good at what it does; not only does it boast a perfect win record, but it’s only gotten better over the years. At its slowest — when it was first unveiled in 2012 — it had a twenty-millisecond delay after an opponent threw out his hand. That’s still only a minor delay, and one that’s been completely erased thanks to its latest iteration.
The key to Janken’s streak is its vision, not its hand. Thanks to its high-speed tracking systems, it can effectively act and react three times faster than the average human. Unfortunately, that takes the fun out of any games with it, since defeat is virtually guaranteed; still, maybe Janken can teach future robots how to put those high-speed parts to good use.