Table tennis champ takes on Ping Pong-playing Kuka robot [Video]
The Kuka robot fight against top-ranked Table Tennis Champion Timo Boll was hyped to be one of the biggest Man vs Machine battles that ever happened. However, it turns out this match of masters was more of a flash in the pan. The match was billed as a ‘fake competition’ between the Kuka pong robot developed by a German robotics company and Timo Boll – a former table-tennis star. Adam Clark Estes from Gizmodo even said this was to be one of the biggest matches in Ping-Pong history, further joking that table tennis would: “Fall prey to our new evil robot overlords.” A video trailer of the match, launched in February, helped stir up the initial hype for it.
But, after a video of the actual match was shown, it seems that we don’t have to worry about a possible SkyNet takeover any time soon. This robot is more suitable to pull out bingo balls then playing ping pong. As the video was quickly deconstructed by various forums around the internet, it seems that all the dramatic music, impressive cutscenes and stirring tension can’t hide the fact there’s excessive editing and bad acting on Boll’s part as he pretends to struggle against his robot-nemesis.
It does at first seem like it’s genuine, but after a while the fast camera work and slow-mo shots start to grate and give off this uncanny valley vibe as you start to realize that it is all completely staged. The match starts off normally, but quickly becomes one sided as Boll loses initially to the machine, but somehow finding a sense of resolve, Boll stages a daring comeback, like every stereotypical hero, in every movie, ever.
Boll is a former world champ, he could have quite happily stood stock still at the table, with one hand tied behind his back and both legs cemented to the floor and the Kuka robot wouldn’t have stood a chance. Maybe the robot can beat those bingo players who play online bingo at William Hill. But instead, he resorts to over-the-top swings and diving everywhere, like he was coming under heavy fire from someone with a gun just off camera.
Although in the robots defense, it is an incredible piece of machinery. According to its creators, it has been programmed to autonomously track the ball in real-time and hit it at the right opportunity.