Cheating Rock-Paper-Scissors Robot Beats Humans Every Single Time [VIDEO]

By Josh Lieberman on November 5, 2013 12:30 PM EST

rock paper scissors
A Japanese rock-paper-scissors-playing robot beats humans every time (by cheating). Above, a scene from the 2006 International World Rock Paper Scissors Championships. (Photo: Reuters)

Scientists from the University of Tokyo have developed a new, faster version of their rock-paper-scissors-playing robot. The Janken robot, named after the Japanese word for the game, can beat humans 100 percent of the time, but it doesn't exactly play fair: the robot uses high-speed vision to interpret the human's wrist movement and then play the winning move.

"The wrist joint angle of the robot hand is controlled based on the position of the human hand," the creators write. "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 1ms."

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The first version of the rock-paper-scissors robot took 20 milliseconds to form its own move after that 1 millisecond detection, but this newest version makes its move almost instantly. Even the first version of the Janken robot, with its 21-millisecond move, moved too quickly for the human eye to notice; the newest version makes it absolutely impossible for a human to notice that the robot is technically throwing its move after the human's. It's a highly effective, highly cheating rock-paper-scissors robot.

Though you'll never win against the Janken robot, if you're playing against a human, there are a number of strategies to winning at rock-paper-scissors, according to the World RPS Society. (Interesting side note: the Society claims to have planted its roots way back in 1842, following an English law which declared that "any decision reached by the use of the process known as Paper Scissors Stone between two gentleman acting in good faith shall constitute a binding contract. Agreements reached in this manner are subject to all relevant contract and tort law." This could very well be apocryphal, but still.) Per the World RPS Society:

Contrary to what you might think RPS is not simply a game of luck or chance. While it is true that from a mathematical perspective the 'optimum' strategy is to play randomly, it still is not a winning strategy for two reasons. First, 'optimum' in this case means you should win, lose and draw an equal number of times (hardly a winning strategy over the long term). Second, Humans, try as they might, are terrible at trying to be random, in fact often humans in trying to approximate randomness become quite predictable.

Their first tip for winning at rock-paper-scissors? Never open with rock. Their whole strategy guide is a pretty interesting read, actually, so head over there and take a look. More interesting, though, is watching a robot beat a human every time, a video of which is embedded below.

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