A robotic arm capable of playing the popular game Jenga has been built by American engineers.   

The machine, developed by MIT engineers, is equipped with a soft-pronged gripper, a force-sensing wrist cuff and an external camera. 

This enables it to see and feel the movement of the tower and adjust for each individual block.

It monitors and tracks the feedback from the blocks and the machine makes subtle adjustments to avoid toppling the tower and losing the game.  

A computer takes in visual and tactile feedback via the cameras and cuff, and compares these measurements to moves that the robot previously made.  

In real-time, the robot then ‘learns’ whether to keep pushing or move to a new block, in order to keep the tower from falling.

Details of the Jenga-playing robot are published in the journal Science Robotics. 

Professor Alberto Rodriguez, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, says the robot demonstrates the ability to quickly learn, not just from visual cues, but also from tactile, physical interactions.

Previous systems have struggled to master this. 

‘Unlike in more purely cognitive tasks or games such as chess or Go, playing the game of Jenga also requires mastery of physical skills such as probing, pushing, pulling, placing, and aligning pieces,’ Professor Rodriguez said.

‘It requires interactive perception and manipulation, where you have to go and touch the tower to learn how and when to move blocks,’ Rodriguez says. 

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