Generally, I approach robots (and everything else) with gratuitous "i"s appended to their names with no small amount of skepticism, but UCSD's robotics lab has somehow managed to create a whole lineage of "i" robots that can do some totally unique stuff. We've written about them before, but this latest version of iFling has some substantial quality of life improvements when it comes to doing what it does best: picking up ping-pong balls and chucking them at things:
The two-wheeled balancing design clearly gives the robot more mobility than it knows what to do with, and the integrated ball pickup system is brilliant. I love the idea of teaching a bunch of these little guys to autonomously play catch, but better yet would be some sort of entirely new robot-on-robot team sport. It's also worth noting that the website mentions how iFling is "particularly engaging as a toy," which makes me wonder whether we might be treated to a kit (or even a full-fledged commercial product) at some point in the future.
[ UCSD Robotics ]
Evan Ackerman is the senior writer for IEEE Spectrum’s award-winning robotics blog, Automaton. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and emerging technology, covering conferences and events on every single continent except Africa, Antarctica, Australia, and South America (although he remains optimistic). In addition to Spectrum, Evan’s work has appeared in a variety of other online publications including Gizmodo and Slate, and you may have heard him on NPR’s Science Friday or the BBC World Service if you were listening at just the right time. Evan has an undergraduate degree in Martian geology, which he almost never gets to use, and still wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. In his spare time, he enjoys scuba diving, rehabilitating injured raptors, and playing bagpipes excellently.