In the past few weeks, an incredible amount of hype has built up around one game of table tennis. The opponents were a professional table tennis player (Timo Boll) and an industrial robot made by Kuka. Engineers, geeks, and table tennis enthusiasts were all excited to see this man-versus-machine style fight. However, many were let down.
Here it is -- the match that so many people were anticipating. As you can see, it looks quite beautiful, but it is obviously not a real match. The industrial arm never actually played table tennis. All the motions were pre-programmed and staged. It's understandable that many people were disappointed, even if they were amused.
Ulf Hoffmann was eager to see this match. He wanted to see how the people behind this project pulled it off, because he was working on the same exact thing. His robotic arm is considerably smaller, but, unlike the Kuka arm, it actually plays table tennis.
As you can see in the video, this smaller version works quite well. It is actually surprising that the arm can keep up, considering how much slower it appears to move. It looks like it barely manages to get to the right place in the nick of time.
There is a build log (in German) associated with this arm. Unfortunately, there isn't a ton of information there -- mainly status updates. However, you can pick out some information from the video, such as the optical tracking placed above the table, as well as a glimpse of the software being used.