If VERSABALL® can keep scoring six out of six shots, we're permanently switching to flip cup.
While everybody has that friend who claims to be the "undisputed king of beer pong," a new contender will rise this year at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Known as VERSABALL®, the challenger takes the form of a soft robotic ball attached to an articulating arm that can pick up and toss Ping-Pong balls into plastic cups. Above, watch the bot beat the game by scoring six out of six shots.
Created by Boston startup, Empire Robotics, VERSABALL® is a specialized sand-filled ball that can grip and release the objects it presses against. The particles inside harden or soften in the presence of air, allowing the robot to grip objects through the “jamming phase transition of granular materials,” its creators explain on their website. “What we use it for is generally industrial automation.” Explained Empire Robotics project manager John Dean to Yahoo News, “You’d see it in automotive factories, consumer electronics factories, and small mom-and-pop shops that are making little gizmos and gadgets.”
In a way that most mom-and-pop shops aren't using the technology, however, the robot will be playing beer pong against visitors of CES. From January 6-9 in the Eureka Park section of the Sands Expo center, “Challengers will be able to come and play a game against the robot,” according to Dean. Players should come prepared: "The robot is not perfect, so it’s possible for a human to win, but it’s pretty good, so you’d have to be pretty good at beer pong,” he explained.
So is it the sign of an inevitable Rise of the Machines-style house party takeover? Only time will tell. In the meantime, though, humanity might be better suited practicing flip cup.