Sure, Just Give A Robot A Sword

Melee machine

Namiki Labs Swordfighting Robot

Namiki Labs Swordfighting Robot

Screenshot by author, from YouTube

In this eight-second clip, a sword-fighting robot successfully parries a human attacker. Both are wielding foam swords, which is a good safety practice and makes them look less like lab researchers and more like anachronistic cyberpunk live action role players. Watch the fight:

The robot was built by Japan’s Namiki Laboratory, and the results published in a paper titled “Development of a Sword-Fighting Robot Controlled by High-Speed Vision.” Here is what the lab says about the paper:

In this paper, we propose a sword-fighting robot system controlled by a stereo high-speed vision system as an example of human-robot dynamic interaction systems. The developed robot system recognizes both of the positions of a human player and that of the sword grasped by the robot hand. And it detects the moment when the human starts to move by using ChangeFinder which is a method of detecting the turning points. Next it predicts the possible trajectories of the sword of the human player by a least-squares method from the moment when the attack started. Finally it judges the kinds of the attack and generates an appropriate defensive motion. Experimental results verify the effectiveness of the proposed algorithm.

Robots are good, but getting sliced in half by a robot is decidedly a bad thing. Seriously, there are multiple TV shows about why arming robots is a terrible idea. Of course, a lot of the fear about arming robots is really fear about other things: what if the robots enable us to fight bad wars, what if the robots turn their arms against their human masters, something that humans with weapons have never done in the history of ever? So perhaps instead of fearing robots with arms, we should just be happy they're learning the outdated weapons first, like swords.

Human have armed robots with blades before, possibly just because humans are very bad at assessing personal safety. Or perhaps there's a bit of overpowered mischief to it, like watching a cat play with a mouse. Sure, we'll give robots foam swords and kitchen knives, but meanwhile, we are building missiles that can knock out computer systems from the sky. Wave a sword at that all you like, future robot overlords.