If you’re a professional basketball player and have been smugly snickering at all those articles about robots and AI taking over jobs, annoyingly confident that your gig is, and always will be, safe, then I have some bad news for you. Toyota, maker of your friend’s gray-market Sera and your enemy’s Prius, has developed a robot that can sink three-pointers with ease. Plus, it has skin that looks like an obsidian pineapple.
This video was shot on April 1 at a basketball court in Tokyo. While the actual shooting of the basket is unquestionably impressive, there’s a lot of other strange robotic stuff going on here. Watch:
See what I mean? The ball was first handed to a robot controlled by a man in a VR headset and gear that appears to replicate his actions to that black-and-white humanoid robot:
Next, that VR-wearing-human-controlled robot passes the ball off to this very slow, careful non-humanoid basketball-transporting robot that appears to navigate its own way to the tall basketball-throwing robot, who’s dressed in black-and-red basketball shorts that prevent us from knowing if Toyota designed any robotic genitals for it.
The process is slow and peculiar, giving the entire event a strangely stately and almost religiously ritualistic feel.
The basketball-shooting robot is named Cue 3, and while it’s being developed mostly for promotional, fun, and morale reasons, that doesn’t make what it’s doing any less impressive.
There’s a hell of a lot of computation that has to happen to sink a long basket like that. Cue 3 uses sensors in its torso to generate a three-dimensional image of the basket’s location, and there’s motors inside the arms and knees to adjust the power and trajectory of the shot. There also appears to be some sort of cyclopean camera on the head, too.
None of this is easy, but Toyota says it hardly ever misses, though in the April 1st demonstration it only sunk five out of eight shots, worse than normal but still pretty damn good.
Even so, it looks like it would be pretty easy to defend against the robot and steal the ball.
Toyota’s also made a more-produced video of the basketbot in action, this time competing against some human basketball players:
The robot won.