Toyota robot can’t slam dunk but throws a mean three-pointer
It can’t dribble, let alone slam dunk, but Toyota’s basketball robot hardly ever misses a free throw or a 3-pointer.
The 207-centimeter-tall machine made five of eight 3-point shots in a demonstration in a Tokyo suburb Monday, a ratio its engineers say is worse than usual.
Toyota Motor Corp.’s robot, called Cue 3, computes as a three-dimensional image where the basket is, using sensors on its torso, and adjusts motors inside its arm and knees to give the shot the right angle and propulsion for a swish.
Efforts in developing human-shaped robots underline a global shift in robotics use from pre-programmed mechanical arms in limited situations like factories to functioning in the real world with people.
The 2017 version of the robot was designed to make free throws.
Yudai Baba, a basketball player likely representing host Japan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, took part in the demonstration and also missed a couple of shots. If the robot could learn a few more tricks, he was ready to accept the robot on the team, he said.
“We human players are still better for now,” he said.
Right after missing, the robot slumped over. It wasn’t disappointment, but a temporary power failure.
Cue 3’s name is supposed to reflect the idea the technology can serve as a cue, or signal of great things to come, according to Toyota.
The company plays down how the technology might prove useful. It’s more about boosting morale among engineers, making them open to ideas and challenges.
In making the robot’s outer covering something like that of an armadillo, the engineers said they were just trying to avoid the white metallic look often seen on robots.