You can't help smiling when you see the iFling in action — it displays an almost cat-like playfulness with its jai alai inspired throwing arm and highly maneuverable two-wheeled design made with a 3D printer. The radio-controlled contraption picks up as many as four ping pong balls by simply rolling over them and launches them across the room using carefully tuned arm-flipping algorithms — it can also (crudely) whack them like a hockey stick. Besides the obvious use as a toy or ping pong tournament ball boy, the creators at the UCSD Coordinated Robotics Lab say it could be automated for robot team sports. The iFling has been evolving for years, but the idea originated on a 2003 final exam — a handful of students were so intrigued by the test, they asked the professor if they could make the concept a reality. You can see both the newest version and an earlier prototype in the videos below. Now all they need to do is come up with a more creative name.
iFling robot picks up and throws ping pong balls
The iFling is a radio-controlled Segway-like robot that picks up ping pong balls by rolling over them and throws them with an attached arm.