The highly awaited ping pong match between former champion Timo Boll and KUKA's AGILUS robot has finally taken place. But after watching the video, it's blatantly obvious the whole thing was staged.
Okay, there's no denying that KUKA's KR AGILUS industrial robot is impressive; when it comes to fine motor tasks like sorting small objects very quickly, the machine is clearly cutting-edge. But the German manufacturer didn't have to come across as being so...disingenuous about the whole thing.
Here's the video in all it's super-polished and edited glory:
So, after going down 6-0 in the match, we're supposed to believe that Boll took back the game with a powerful smash that put the ball over the top of his robotic opponent.
Seth Rosenthal from SBNation writes:
The "match" is just a cut-up, exceedingly polished montage of isolated shots edited together to form a cinematic human comeback story. What a waste. We got nary a glimpse of the real thing. Boll would have dominated, but based on the look of this robot and the videos above, there's reason to believe the machine could at least return a couple shots and make it interesting. Or not. Either way, a real, uncut video or anything to demonstrate how this match-up actually went would have been exciting. I don't think anyone would pass judgment or doubt the robot's ability to manufacture stuff because it's not actually any good at ping-pong. There's no need to hide.
And I love what Verge's Rich McCormick's had to say about it:
Meanwhile, the camera crew is more focused on providing Michael Bay-esque slow-motion shots of the action, cutting in and out of rallies in progress to preserve the narrative. A making-of video explains how the crew were able to get the shots — by standing next to the table and sliding a giant camera in front of Boll's face — but steers clear of showing unedited footage of the match in progress. A match like this could've been an intriguing window into future questions of sportsmanship and competitive entertainment; as it is, it's nothing more than a glorified commercial.
The "making of" video, should you care: