Why, you may have asked yourself, aren't there more robots playing beer pong? Well, now there are. And the arc of this robot's beer pong throw is so beautiful it could make a frat boy weep.
Obvious unfair advantage aside—robots can't actually drink the beer, which is a central part of playing—this bot's game is solid. Here's how CNET explained the technology:
In the video above, you'll see that the mechanized arm picks up each ping-pong ball in a green sphere. That sphere is known as a Versaball and it's filled with sand. When the Versaball is pumped with air, the sand granules can move around freely and form an impression around the objects on which the sphere is placed. Once the ball is in place on top of an object, the system sucks the air out of it, causing the sand grains to tighten around the object, thereby allowing it to be lifted.
There are applications for this technology beyond beer pong, according to Empire Robotics, which set up the display as a way of demonstrating robotic gripping automation that could be used on an industrial scale. The idea is to reduce pinching points and automate the gripping of delicate and even porous materials that other robots can't handle.
Back at the beer pong table, each cup has a sensor so the robot can recalibrate when it misses, which isn't often. And unlike some of the other trash-talking robots out there, the Versaball bot appears to be a pretty good sport about winning.
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