John Choi

19 Feb 2015

For my capstone project for this class, I am very interested in combining my favorite two mediums in art: video games and robots. Thus, I am likely to build some really cool kind of robotic video game controller that plays an actual game. So that’s what I’ve been looking around for:

R.O.B. Robotic Operating Buddy, by Nintendo Corporation (1985)

This is a video game unlike anything else at the time of its release, and quite unlike anything else even today. Perhaps better known as a Super Smash Bros character in the 21st century, R.O.B. was originally a medium-size robot toy that was sold as part of a Deluxe Set including two games along with itself.  R.O.B. would directly integrate with the core game play of the video games it shipped with, and players could control the robot with a videogame controller, with gameplay information displayed on the screen.  While the device never did achieve commercial success, it did help show the public that video games can be a novel and innovative medium for art and entertainment, against an economy that still resonated with fear of the recent Videogame Crash of 1983.  I think it R.O.B. was a bold vision on what video games could be like, and proved that the medium did not have to limited to a screen and a conventional controller.  The biggest problem with R.O.B. however, was that the kinds of games it could play was extremely limited, and it was hard to imagine a good gameplay mechanic that would both be fun to play and be tied well with the robot.

NESBot by pjgat09, 2011

Oh, how far artificial intelligence has gotten.  First, robots play chess, and now they play Nintendo games from the 1980s.  Soon enough, they’ll be playing advanced 3D games like Halo and Skyrim.  Anyways, this is an Arduino hack that plays the classic Super Mario Bros, independently generating key presses based on data being output from the game.  Well actually, its not really generating anything intelligently or independently (its all prerecorded key-presses simply being played at very specific times), but the concept of a non-human robot playing a video game is intriguing, especially if the robot has the same limitations as human players.  Artificial intelligence controlled characters in videogames has never really been too smart – when they happen to be a challenge, it’s only because they are given unfair advantages, such as always knowing where everything else is in the game, or being given special powers like increased health, damage or speed.  However, it would be really interesting to see a robot that actually has to sit down, watch the TV, and press buttons on a physical controller to play a game.  It will probably take extreme computer vision algorithms and a killer servomotor/solenoid setup along with a camera with a very high frame rate, but being able to play complex games will bring robots that much closer to the level human intelligence.