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Man versus machine: Table tennis champ to take on ping-pong-playing robot

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Agilus the robot has balls albeit of the Ping-Pong variety as next month it will go up against German table tennis pro Timo Boll.

Agilus the robot has balls – albeit of the Ping-Pong variety – as next month it’ll go up against German table tennis pro Timo Boll in a potentially dramatic man-against-machine sports-based face-off.

Built by German robot specialists Kuka Robotics – a firm which you may be surprised to learn has not been acquired by Google (though one can well imagine the Mountain View company buying its creation and sticking it in its Googleplex game room some time soon) – Ping-Pong-playing Agilus will battle against Boll on March 11 at a special event celebrating the opening of a new Kuka production plant in Shanghai.

According to the company’s website, Ping-Pong pro Boll is one of the world’s top players with several international trophies to his name. The left-hander is known as one of the game’s cleverest tacticians, though whether his talent is enough to outwit his robotic opponent remains to be seen.

As for Agilus, we currently know nothing of its skill as a table tennis player as it’s usually hard at work in a factory, with little time for frivolous leisure activities involving bats and balls. It is, however, touted as “the fastest robot in the world,” suggesting Boll will have to be at the top of his game in order to secure victory over Agilus and to ensure other robots stop getting any highfalutin ideas about taking over the world.

To score a win, Bol may be tempted to play nothing but short, wide shots with massive backspin, with Agilus’s limited reach from a fixed base a definite shortcoming. As for Agilus, if it can just keep getting the ball back, the German player may become exhausted, disillusioned, or simply bored into making mistakes, handing a historic win to the robot community.

So who do you think’ll come out on top in this intriguing contest? The all-human all-parts-his-own Boll or the brainless bot with a bat?

Place your bets now.