In the world of robotics, we're always hearing about bots that can play sports.
But now a robotics research studio from Pittsburgh called ATONATON is putting a new twist on this sports-bot theme. What if instead of having the robot plays the sport, the robot was the sport.
It seemed curious to us at first, too. But then we saw their Robotic Basketball Hoop.
The hoop that plays you
The idea is actually pretty simple. Led by Dr. Madeline Gannon, a Ph.D. in Computational Design, the ATONATON team came up with a wacky idea. Attach a backboard and hoop to a large industrial robot, and then allow the machine to be controlled with a joystick.
The result would be a basketball hoop that could be a playful opponent to a human shooting hoops.
According to their website, "Our goal was to create a basketball hoop with personality: where it could kneel down and allow a dunk if it was feeling friendly, or move suddenly at the last second if it wanted to be a pain."
Hey, no fair! But also pretty awesome!
The process started with an ABB IRB 8700 robot arm. This industrial machine is normally used in factories to build things and lift heavy objects. It weighs 4,575 kg (about 10,000 lbs) and stands 5.1 m (16.7 ft) tall. So it's big.
Then, the team attached a backboard and a hoop to the arm and set about programming their new machine.
In your face!
Does it work? Yes!
The hoop is surprisingly agile and responsive, especially for something that big. And the controls are pretty simple.
The joysticks allow the hoop to be moved in three-dimensions: up, down, back, front, left, right. If the person controlling it loses their bearings, they can easily reset the hoop to normal (regulation) position by pressing A.
But here's our favourite part.
If the controller is feeling feisty, they can press X. This makes the backboard swing forward, smacking away your shot.
Hmm. Sound a little unfair? Maybe. But the point of the hoop is not to be easy or predictable. More silly and off-the-wall. And we think the folks at ATONATON more than succeeded there!
Watch the hoop in action in the video below.