Update: The entire thing was fake. (Dep. Editor)
Tomorrow, a man will pick up a paddle and do his best to out-play the world's fastest robot in a high-stakes game of ping pong. While watching Timo Boll duke it out with the Kuka robot arm will definitely be exciting, we'd much rather step up to the table ourselves to see how we hold up. Developed by German engineer Ulf Hoffmann, this garage version of the match-up just might give us the chance.
Hoffmann's rig is much smaller than the Kuka robot, but it still seems like a pretty worthy opponent for your average ping pong player. Riding along on a table-mounted track, Hoffmann's UHTTR-1 ping pong 'bot can field and return most volleys that come into its reach.
So far the UHTTR-1 only operates in "passive mode", meaning it won't open up a can of hurt on you when given a chance. That could change soon, though. Hoffmann and his buddies have already begun implementing a program that will allow the robot to learn from its experiences and eventually become more aggressive with its opponents. So if you're hoping to score a few easy points off of even this backyard version of the ping pong robot, you'd best pay Ulf Hoffmann a visit ASAP. Otherwise, you just might miss the moment when robots evolve beyond your capabilities — at least at table tennis.