Robotics and AI are supposed to make people’s lives better, so why don’t they help me suck less at sport? Engineer and YouTuber Shane Wighton has tackled this incredibly pressing issue with one of the cleverest mechanical creations I’ve seen on the internet: a basketball hoop that ensures that you never miss a shot.
You can get the gist of how the thing works from the GIF below. Sensors track the trajectory of each shot and motors attached to the backboard adjust its angle to deflect the ball into the hoop. But Wighton’s video (from his channel Stuff Made Here) goes into some fascinating detail, explaining both the underlying technology and the design process.
For example, the whole process of tracking the shot, calculating the angle, and adjusting the backboard has to take place in just 600 milliseconds. That’s no time at all. This meant Wighton really had to optimize his design to make it as lightweight, and therefore as easy to move, as possible. That’s why the motors that power the thing are attached to the back frame rather than the backboard itself, and why the support struts are hollowed out: all to reduce weight and make the backboard easier to re-angle at high speeds.
There’s also a lot of cleverness in the software side, which is powered by a Microsoft Kinect, beloved by DIY hackers everywhere. These include a facial recognition feature that identifies whether Wighton or his wife is making a shot. That allows for some unfair and very funny cheating. I can just imagine some spoiled tech CEO installing one of these machines in his home basketball court to make sure he never loses a game. There’s also a similar construction (which Wighton mentions) made by YouTuber Mark Rober in 2017: a moving dartboard that lets you get a bullseye every shot.
Anyway, you can watch the full video from Wighton if you want a clear and entertaining explanation of how it all works. Next job: a robot that helps me dunk.