Get those paddles ready. Annoyed with the lack of ideal human table tennis partners, two brothers decided to create the perfect robotic one.
About a foot tall and 6 inches wide, the ball-spitting Trainerbot can be programmed from a smartphone to play at whatever level you want, in any catch net, and even reproduce an opponent's trick shots.
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Alexander and Harrison Chen grew up playing ping pong, but went off to study far away from each other. Unable to train together, they got the idea to build a robot that could replicate their respective skills. They made the first version of Trainerbot in 2012 from a garbage can.
Subsequent versions got more sophisticated as they learned engineering, and last month they launched on Kickstarter. The Bluetooth-connected bot, which kind of resembles a periscope, shoots ping pong balls out of its canister. Trainerbot has sophisticated spin, trajectory, and direction control that's programmable from a smartphone. An optional stand allows it to be set up outside the table like a real player.
"Ever wonder how the athlete on TV missed that shot?" their Kickstarter page asks. "Program that famous match and try it for yourself."
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Recently the team announced that Trainerbot will work with the International Table Tennis Federation's new 40 mm balls. They also added a "ball profiles" option to the app for different ball standards. Kickstarter backers pledging $329 will get the bot, power cord, and 30 balls. For an additional $100, backers get the robot stand and 60 balls.