Robot basketball players won't bump human basketball stars such as Jeremy Lin off the cover of Sports Illustrated anytime soon, but they're practicing hard to perfect their game in labs around the world. The latest U.S. contender seems capable of both shooting baskets and chasing down loose balls rolling around the court.
The "Max X" robot not only hurled basketballs at an imaginary hoop when it first came to life in a new YouTube video, but also rolled around to scoop up basketballs using a conveyor belt system. The test run represented the first step toward entering the 2012 FIRST Robotics Competition on behalf of its student creators at Wolcott High School in Wolcott, Conn.
Plenty of robots have tried human sports in past years, whether playing slow-motion soccer or hurling baseball pitches at frightening speeds. Many have competed in the annual RoboGames competition that features "Real Steel" combat, golf, hockey and even sumo wrestling.
One industrial robot at Taiwan's National Chiao-Tung University in Hsinchu has already proven its basketball accuracy by sinking repeated shots. Its design resembles a robotic arm that doesn't move around.
Still, Wolcott High School's "Team Max 1071" has more on their collective mind than just achieving robotic sports glory. The team has participated for 10 years in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Competition — an annual robotics contest created by U.S. innovator Dean Kamen to inspire students of all ages to take interest in science and engineering.
Kamen has said that he wants robotics to become as accessible for students as trying out for any school sports team.
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