Robot Takes on Top Ping Pong Player

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

KUKA, the German robot manufacturer, celebrating the opening of a new plant in Shanghai.

German ping pong Star, Timo Boll, ranked number 8 in the world and ambassador for Kuka , has loaned the company his skills to make a promotional video showing off one of the company's flagship robots - the KR AGILUS, which is normally used in the construction of cars.

In the video the German player is competing against KR AGILUS , which has been specially adapted.

Boll begins by losing the first points of the match, but ends up winning the game 11/9 in a dramatic final.

Keeping an eye on the ball and using a ping pong bat might be child's play for some humans, but it's a huge advance for machines.

The KR AGILUS comes with either 5 or 6 axes and has an integrated energy supply system. The robot is designed for working at high speeds with precision. It is capable of handling, loading and assembly work in factories, but it can also master unusual tasks as seen in the staged ping pong match.

"Yeah it was really amazing to compete against a robot, of course we used some tricks, some cheats in the video shooting, but it was really exciting and amazing how fast a robot can move, how precise, how flexible he is. All the things what a table tennis player needs," says Boll.

Kuka CEO, Dr. Till Reuter says creating a robot that can play ping pong is not rocket science: " What we are doing is not a revolution, we are working on the evolution, so we are going step by step. The robot, first to get a vision, the robot can see and you put the robot on a navigating tool, robot can move, then you combine moving and seeing then, you add haptics, so that is how we work on it, so we work on the hardware on the one hand, so there is a much boarder spectrum of tasks, and then we add software and by combination, robots will in the future do things which man can do."

The new 20,000-square-metre plant will employ 350 people in manufacturing, marketing and distribution and will assemble robots mainly for automotive clients as well as other industries. The company says it expects to assemble 3000 robots at the new plant in its first year increasing to .000 units by 2015.


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