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Watch a robot arm play a game of Catan

Probably won’t trade wheat for sheep.

A Catan fan has created their own robot arm that’s capable of playing the classic board game.

Johnny Ramsdel – known as @johnramsdell18 on Twitter – tweeted a video of a robot arm they had engineered playing the family board game Catan. The video depicts the robotic arm picking up components found within the board game, such as roads and settlements, and placing them in their appropriate places on a Catan board.

An explanation of how the robot came to be – and what it’s capable of doing – can be found on the engineer’s website: with images, short clips and text providing an overview of its creation. Having conducted research into the mechanics behind human appendages, such as knees, and how they’re able to bend and release, Ramsdel applied their research to the design and construction of a mechanical arm that would be able to reach out and place objects.

Having initially designed and tested the concept within a 3D program called Solidworks, Ramsdel then constructed the robot using a 3D printer. Ramsdel created the mechanical arm by building a gearbox that would raise and lower the robot, before attaching a gripper to the very end. After troubleshooting various issues they ran into with the robot’s construction, Ramsdel then used a software program to enable the robot to interact with the Catan pieces and board.

Using a camera, Ramsdel was able to create an algorithm that was mapped to an already setup Catan board, labelling each hex with each associated resource type. The engineer then used image recognition software to enable the robot to successfully identify certain components from the beginner board game. By then giving the robot a series of instructions, Ramsdel was able to get the robot to correctly pick-up and place various components on a Catan board.

An image of the mapping tool used to create the Catan robot.

Catan is a board game for three to four players that revolves around the collection of resources and the construction of various buildings and roads. At the beginning of the game players can place two settlements on the board. Depending on where their settlements are, players will collect certain resources whenever the number associated with those hexes is rolled. Players can use resources to construct other settlements, as well as roads connecting them and upgrade their existing settlements into cities. Constructing and upgrading with earn players the victory points they need to win the game.

It is unconfirmed whether Ramsdel’s robot is capable of trading with other players or refusing to take wheat for sheep.

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Alex Meehan avatar
Alex Meehan: After writing for Kotaku UK, Waypoint and Official Xbox Magazine, Alex became a member of the Dicebreaker editorial family. Having been producing news, features, previews and opinion pieces for Dicebreaker for the past three years, Alex has had plenty of opportunity to indulge in her love of meaty strategy board games and gothic RPGS. Besides writing, Alex appears in Dicebreaker’s D&D actual play series Storybreakers and haunts the occasional stream on the Dicebreaker YouTube channel.
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