Robots are very good at doing the same thing over and over again, with ridiculous precision. They don't get bored and, as long as you keep the power on, they don't get tired, either. Still, it's pretty startling to watch the industrial arm in this clip toss in mid-range jump shots with such ease.
The arm, manufactured by a company called ABB and normally used on auto assembly lines, has been touring the country's science museums for more than ten years. Modified and programmed by a group at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA, the robotic arm scoops up each basketball with two long metal rods, or tines. Then it executes one of a few pre-programmed motions—a scoop shot, a hook and a standard jumper—rolling the ball off those artificial fingers and tossing it skillfully through the rim.
But Tom Flaherty, the Director of Exhibits, Facilities and Operations at the Carnegie Center, spearheaded the development, says the robot isn't 100 percent accurate. Not because of a mechanical or software glitch. The robot runs through the same steps with each shot, but the ball itself can change. The robot is programmed to sink shots using a ball with certain specifications. If one of the balls is deflated slightly, its flight pattern might be different, and it might not slip through the net. Which really doesn't seem all that different than those NBA players complaining about the league's new basketballs at the start of last season.
Apparently all good shooters, men or machines, are picky.—Gregory Mone
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.