It can’t dribble, let alone slam dunk, but Toyota’s basketball robot hardly ever misses a free throw or a three-pointer.
The 6-foot-10-inch-tall machine made five of eight three-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.
Yudai Baba, a basketball player who will probably represent 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, Baba said he was ready to accept the robot on the team.
“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.
Experts say robots that can mimic human movements, even doing them better, could prove useful in various ways, including picking crops, making deliveries, and working in factories and warehouses.
Stanford University Professor Oussama Khatib, who directs the university’s robotics lab, said Cue 3 demonstrates complex activities such as using sensors and nimble computation in real-time in what he called “visual feedback.”
To shoot hoops, the robot must have a good vision system, be able to compute the ball’s path then execute the shot, he said in a telephone interview.
“What Toyota is doing here is really bringing the top capabilities in perception with the top capabilities in control to have robots perform something that is really challenging,” Khatib said.
When will such robots be able to slam dunk, a feat that will require running, dribbling and jumping?
“In 20 years, with technological advances,” said Tomohiro Nomi, a Toyota engineer who worked on Cue 3.