It was dubbed the 'ultimate man versus machine sports-based face-off.' German table tennis champion Timo Boll went head-to-head against a state of the art lightning fast robot, Agilus, on March 11. Oh and yes you can take a sigh of relief as humans won this round - but only narrowly!
[Image Source: Kuka Robotics]
In one corner is Agilus, a robotic arm designed by German based company KUKA. Weighing in at 50 kg with a reach of roughly 1 meter and a touted reputation as one the fasted and most precise robots ever created.
In the other corner is Boll, weighing it at probably 60 kg and with a similar 1 meter reach (more if you include body motion) known as a former world number one with a successful career spanning two decades. He has many international trophies to his name including a bronze medal in the London 2012 olympics. The left-hander is known as one of the game’s cleverest tacticians and it seems just clever enough to outsmart his robot competitor.
'I'm happy to play against the robot, but what makes a good table tennis player is speed, agility, and action - and those are attributes modern robot needs to have," said Boll.
The robot shows of its precision with ball balancing skills [Image Source: Kuka Robotics]
Agilus reportedly took a 6 point lead before Boll fought back to win by 1 point and give a one-up for humankind. The full match is not available to watch online but it seems it was almost too fast for the human eye to follow! "The speed at which the two have been going at each other is fascinating. You don't have a chance following them with a camera!" said a cameraman at the Bulgarian warehouse set. The online footage has all been rendered in slow motion.
The match was of course set up for KUKA to promote their new product and new robot building factory in Shanghai China. The new plant will produce 3,000 KUKA KR QUANTEC robots and KRC4 universal control units annually for its Asia-based customers. The six axis robot has a payload capacity of 120 kg and can be used for a broad range of manufacturing operations such as laser cutting, machining, assembling and welding to name a few.
EDIT: It has come to our attention on 14th March that the game was not conducted as a proper sports match but was set up for filming and advert purposes. We apologise for mis-leading anyone.