❱❱ Succeeding in complex sporting achievements has the potential to give robots the edge in future AI-based automation tasks


Robotic basketball player provides Toyota with a route into the future for high precision applications in manufacturing

t a time when the motor industry is going through a period of churn like it has never witnessed in its entire history, it would seem that its participants would be focused solely on such technology as electric powertrains, alternative fuels, autonomy, connectivity

and active safety. Toyota Motor Corporation is highly active in all of these areas

but is also delving deeply into its reserves of both funds and resources to develop robotic expertise in… basketball. While this might seem a little tangential to its main business,

the huge corporation never does anything without good reason and the humanoid robotic basketball ace is very likely to be the foundation for advanced manufacturing technology for the future at the Japanese car manufacturer.

AN AI CHALLENGE Known as “CUE”, the robot athlete can trace its roots to an event hosted by the Toyota Engineering Society in 2017. The theme of the event was “Absolute beginners take up the challenge of developing AI from scratch.” AI (artificial intelligence) enables systems to make decisions and carry out tasks using human-like intelligence using learning algorithms. When mulling over the project, the team decided to develop a robot that could use AI to calculate the distance and trajectory to a basketball hoop and score 100 per cent of its shots from the basketball pitch. With no experience of developing robots or AI, the team

members were truly starting from scratch but nonetheless managed to develop the robot to take reasonable goal shots. By March 2018, they were performing demonstrations at events, including during the half time interval of a professional game at the Alvark basketball team’s stadium in Tokyo. The performance was met with an enthusiastic public response that wasn’t overlooked by Toyota’s own talent spotters.

DEVELOPMENT WORK ON CUE Having seen the potential of the original CUE robot, Toyota’s management gave the project the credibility of a substantial budget and the team overall management of its execution. From the light-hearted demonstration of the original robot at a sporting venue, the CUE2 project was born. There was just six months between CUE’s debut and the

unveiling of CUE2. In that brief time, the sturdy box on which CUE had stood had disappeared, leaving CUE2 to stand

 April 2020 /// Testing & Test Houses /// 13

robots enter a new league A

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