Guitar Hero Robot Plays Videogame With Electronic Precision

Guitar Hero kicking your butt after one too many beers? Maybe it's time to automate your gameplay — with a robot guitar god, the Cythbot.

The Cythbot combines a camera with a vision processing system and pneumatic fingers to create a robot that can play the popular Guitar Hero videogame by itself.

The Cythbot is not a humanoid robot but instead a collection of components cleverly patched together to create an automated device that can read the notes flowing on a screen and play them — mimicking what a gamer would do with the game.

Since its launch in 2005, video game publisher Activision's Guitar Hero series has become a blockbuster hit. The game comes with a guitar-shaped peripheral that players have to strum in sync to the notes flowing on a screen. Players are judged based on the accuracy with which they hit the notes.

The Cythbot does the same. Here's how Cyth Systems set up the robot:

First, a camera from Pixelink looks at a screen to analyze the notes that are flowing in.

It is also hooked up to a compact vision processing system, which is hooked up to a box called the Configurable Signal Conditioning Enclosure (CA-1000) from National Instruments. The CA-1000 is capable of digital signal processing and can increase the level of the input signal up to 24 volts. The stepped-up signal is used to operate the pneumatics for the guitar.

The pneumatic fingers hover over the Guitar Hero peripheral with an embedded Wiimote, which is housed in an aluminum box frame.

Two large displays connected to the system show the notes flowing through the screen from the game and indicates which ones are being hit.

Cyth Systems relied on the light intensity of the pixels, rather than the color of the five basic notes, to guide the device's pneumatic fingers.

"If that light intensity value exceeds a predetermined threshold we know we need to hold down that key and actuate the strum bar after a predetermined delay," explains Ivan Gagne, systems engineer with Cyth Systems in this video, "while the note travels down the screen to the bottom play line."

The idea was to demonstrate Cyth Systems' expertise in integrating different systems, says Andy Long, senior director for the company.

So far the Cythbot, which can play both in solo and compete mode, has been able to hit pretty high levels of accuracy of up to 98 percent, says Long, though typically it is in the 75 percent to the 80 percent range. "The reason we can't get to 100 percent is that the pneumatics are not fast enough on certain notes," says Long.

Compare that to one of the best Guitar Hero players in the world, who has a 97 percent accuracy level.

That makes the Cythbot the Deep Blue of Guitar Hero — the ultimate system to beat. Deep Blue, a supercomputer from IBM, played the memorable 1997 chess match against then-world champion Garry Kasparov.

The Cythbot robotic system is on a world tour of its own. It's a big attraction at many industry conferences focused on robotics and systems engineering and made its latest appearance earlier this week at the Robo developers conference in Santa Clara, California.

Here's a video of the Cythbot playing Guitar Hero 3: