This is cool. Researchers at MIT have developed a robot that can play Jenga.

At first glance, it doesn’t sound like much — computers can play chess, go and a variety of other games. What sets this apart, though, is that Jenga is a game that requires physically moving blocks around. And while this is relatively easy for humans, teaching a robot to move stacked blocks without collapsing the tower requires a collection of physical skills that has not — until now — been attempted with robots.

Combining interactive perception and manipulation – whereby the robot would touch the tower to learn how and when to move blocks – is extremely difficult to simulate and therefore the robot has to learn in the real world.

So the researchers placed a two-pronged industrial robot arm with a force sensor in its wrist by the Jenga tower and allowed it to explore rather than using traditional machine-learning techniques that could require data from tens of thousands of block-extraction attempts in order to capture every possible scenario.

It’s an impressive sight

Quote of the Day: Teenager (almost) passes for human

The Turing test was first proposed by Alan Turing in 1950, and luckily our understanding of computing, artificial intelligence, psychology and human communication has remained unaltered since then, so it’s just as valid as ever.

Dean Burnett

In other news, George Dvorsky explains why Why The Turing Test Is Bullshit and The Register has a handy overview of Kevin Warwick’s life in publicity stunts.