Update 3/31/14: The entire thing was fake. (Dep. Editor)
The results are in after a sporting event that was slated to be an epic struggle between man and machine. While there was a clear winner, we can't help but see the ping pong match between a Kuka robot and German champion Timo Boll as a missed opportunity. You see, there was a third team taking swings beside that table: propaganda.
What we had hoped to see was a sporting event — a competition between one of humanity's best and the fastest robot to come off the assembly line. What Kuka delivered instead, was a short film more akin to a Rocky movie than any real sporting event we've ever been to. Through a veritable montage of slow-mo action shots and quick cuts, we were shown a narrative that was difficult to believe.
What Kuka would like us to believe is this: their robot can beat any human being when we play by its rules. Take human ingenuity into account however, and we shall always overcome. That's charming. It makes us feel all cozy in our superiority. But here's the deal: any good competitor will likely size up their opponent before the match, not half way through. Timo Boll, having won a championship or two in his time, would certainly have taken a thing like the robot's reach into account as he planned his strategy.
Take into account that Kuka also released a "making of" video that shows camera men right in the middle of the action as they get a shot and you're left with one conclusion: this was no competition. It's just one big marketing stunt. We're not saying that the folks at Kuka messed with the results of their competition. Timo Boll winning was probably always in the cards. We're just saying that the robot probably had a lot of advantages in its corner. Chief amongst these, and the worst part of the whole shebang: movie magic. We'd very much like to see a real game of table tennis between man and machine, but we aren't holding our breath in anticipation of Kuka putting it out anytime soon.
Via Kuka Robot Group