Forget Flappy Bird, this robot is awesome at playing Leap Sheep on iPad

If Flappy Bird is any indication, playing an addictive mobile game might be fun at first, but can quickly become all-consuming. You could easily spend hours or days trying to beat your best friend’s high score, so why not use a little technology for an edge?

That’s exactly what Tom Randle did with the Leap Sheep game on his iPad(s aapl): It took three separate efforts, but Shephard built a small robot to play Leap Sheep for him. And the robot is really good at it. Here’s a peek at what it looks like, tapping the iPad display each time a sheep needs to leap over a fence:

[vimeo 86780818 w=500 h=281]

Randle uses an Ardiuno to power the brains of his game-playing robot, which has solenoids and capacitive styli in place of finders. A light sensor checks screen brightness and since the sheep are white, they’re relatively easy for the robot to spot. The robot runs on JavaScript, with earlier versions written in Python.

ipad leap sheep robot

How good is it at playing the game? It’s not perfect… yet, says Randle:

“My original aim was to build a robot that was better at playing the game than a human. At the moment it’s not quite there.

The longest I’ve had it running continuously so far is about 5 minutes: 110 sheep. Occasionally it just misses a very fast or slow sheep, and because the solenoids are fixed there’s no way for it to recover. I’m sure with a bit more tweaking I can get it to do much better, but I may have to add a second row of LDRs to more accurately measure the speed of each sheep.”

I’ve never played Leap Sheep but I do still have Flappy Bird installed. Maybe it’s time to bust out the LEGO Mindstorms kit? I’m sure I could build a robot that beats my meager high score of 6!