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Scientists create a baseball-playing robot

Apr 26, 2013, 11:18 PM EDT

Robocup German Open Robots Soccer Tournament 2013 Getty Images

But Mike Trout already exists!

Jokes aside, this is a very interesting article from Wired. Researchers at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology have created a robot that adapts to pitches using software which mimics the function of the human brain’s 100,000 neurons.

When a ball is pitched to the robot, an accelerometer at the back of a batting cage records information about the flight of the ball, including its speed, and this data is relayed back to a machine that holds the GPU-powered brain. The brain then crunches this data so that it can determine exactly when the robot should swing. If the scientists change the pitch speed, the robot will relearn the task all over again.

The robot already has better plate discipline than Delmon Young.

I, for one, welcome our baseball-playing robot overlords.

  1. nbjays - Apr 26, 2013 at 11:30 PM

    And it can take a Verlander fastball to the junk without flinching…

    • dirtyharry1971 - Apr 27, 2013 at 3:38 AM

      It can still win even after all the stupid baseball personal moves the bluejays made this past offseason!! Oh wait, thats impossible!!! Enjoy that record cause its not gonna get any better

      • nbjays - Apr 27, 2013 at 8:14 AM

        Give it a rest, harry. We get that you hate the Jays… we get that you have a huge chip on your shoulder for some reason. You continuing on with this just makes you seem more immature and more bitter.

        Oh wait, that’s impossible!

      • dirtyharry1971 - Apr 27, 2013 at 12:36 PM

        I hope your legs grow together!!

      • indaburg - Apr 27, 2013 at 1:11 PM

        I think you’re actually a Blue Jays fan.

      • nbjays - Apr 27, 2013 at 2:35 PM

        ‘Burgie, I think he’s merely a fan of this internet anonymity that allows him to act online like he wouldn’t dare act in public, nothing more. It’s sad, really.

  2. raysfan1 - Apr 26, 2013 at 11:31 PM

    In other news, Japanese scientists found to have high levels of boredom.

    • paperlions - Apr 27, 2013 at 10:29 AM

      At the risk of being serious, this is just an exercise to gauge the ability of the robot to effectively interact with its environment. Because the earth’s population is aging very quickly, soon there won’t be enough able bodied young people to take care of the elderly (already a problem in Japan). The goal is to have a robot that can effectively interact and move within an environment designed for humans (you know, houses/apartments), and being able to sense movement, calculate trajectories, and act in sufficient time is a key element.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 27, 2013 at 12:15 PM

        Stop being serious, and anyway, in Japan they care about taking care of the elderly.

      • paperlions - Apr 27, 2013 at 12:23 PM

        Yep, thus all the effort….and even relaxation of their immigration policies. Japan typically has been very concerned about preserving their culture …but they don’t have enough in-house care-givers for their elderly…so they are importing them. I did see something recently that said that Japan is having a problem with shop lifting by the elderly because they have no money and/or are bored. Recent polls also showed that a large proportion of them live alone and say they have no friends or family that visit.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 27, 2013 at 12:28 PM

        I’ll be interested to see if Americans return to the practice of multi-generational households small scale — to see if independent living is an anomaly or if we have seen a permanent cultural shift. Also, stop making me think so much; I’m a little hung over.

        Were you fishing yesterday or what?

      • paperlions - Apr 27, 2013 at 2:33 PM

        I wish I was fishing. I took a “short-course” (it sure as hell didn’t feel short) all day from 8:30-5:00 on Spatial Statistics and visualization techniques using R, OpenBUGS, and Google Maps. It was somewhat painful, except for the last hour or so, which may have had useful (to me) information/techniques.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 27, 2013 at 4:34 PM

        Reading that put me to sleep.

      • paperlions - Apr 27, 2013 at 2:35 PM

        …and yeah, it’ll be interesting, socially, to see what happens. I think we’ll have a return to clan-type families just because I think the infrastructure will collapse under the weight of greed and 7+ billion people and groups of people will have to defend areas of arable land and drinkable water….but, you know, I’m an optimist.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 27, 2013 at 4:51 PM

        Part of me is really interested to see the 20th century as an unsustainable aberration (which, btw, makes professionalization largely a failure — wahahaha!). But, I wonder if our greed-driven society will adapt. It would be interesting to see how that would work.

      • paperlions - Apr 27, 2013 at 5:15 PM

        Well, for that to work, it’ll really have to turn into some form of socialism (people working for their own personal enrichment (not defined by wealth or accumulation) and for the good of society as a whole, wouldn’t it? Hard to see that happening….if for no other reason because the types of people that tend to be in leadership positions are generally those most interesting in accumulation of stuff.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 27, 2013 at 5:20 PM

        No, I think it’ll be something new and different (I hope). I really want us to be on the verge of a paradigm shift. But, your idea of socialism is entirely too egalitarian.

      • paperlions - Apr 27, 2013 at 5:23 PM

        Yeah, it is. I just struggle to understand how society has done as “well” as it has in the near complete absence of a meritocracy. I guess it just goes to show you how well the few can marshal the resources represented by of the capable in order to accumulate wealth/power.

        The system is fucked up though…that’s for sure.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 27, 2013 at 5:26 PM

        Boooo, meritocratist!

        /throws popcorn

      • paperlions - Apr 27, 2013 at 5:28 PM

        You know it.

        I’ll just set these olives over here for later. I’d throw them, but that seems rude, and I could get suspend 6 games if I accidentally hit someone.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 27, 2013 at 5:29 PM

        Pfft. Don’t underestimate my glove.

        I hope you caught some of our fielding today.

      • paperlions - Apr 27, 2013 at 5:34 PM

        Couldn’t watch, fox blackout, game here was….ahhhh…Mets? So I did some yard work.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 27, 2013 at 5:36 PM

        Really? I had the mlb blackout but they showed the game on our local Fox station. Well, you can watch it archived…and picture Craig crying softly in the crowd. :)

      • paperlions - Apr 27, 2013 at 5:40 PM

        Yeah, I find his homerism and delight in the Nats brief early struggles a little annoying…not in an of themselves, but there seems to be a air of accomplishment…as if anything that has happened so far really matters….the Braves haven’t won anything yet, and I am willing to be that they still don’t finish ahead of the Nats.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 27, 2013 at 5:44 PM

        I hadn’t noticed. It seemed like his usual trolling to me…but I usually don’t read the NL stories too closely.

      • paperlions - Apr 27, 2013 at 5:25 PM

        FWIW, I only believe in the equality of opportunity…in no way, shape, or form do I think people are equal in ability/potential….I just think there is no reason we shouldn’t all be treated the same by society.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 27, 2013 at 5:28 PM

        Well, that’s inherently unfair.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 27, 2013 at 1:57 PM

        *large scale

        Dangit! Edit function.

      • raysfan1 - Apr 29, 2013 at 5:44 PM

        Yes, I know. Yes, you are being far more serious than I was as my statement was just a joke.

  3. gallaghedj311 - Apr 27, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    I apologize for assuming Craig took a shot at the phillies….

  4. illadelphiasphinest - Apr 27, 2013 at 12:09 AM

    And the robot will K less then BJ Upton

    • evanwins - Apr 27, 2013 at 12:36 AM

      My sister would K less than BJ Upton and she’s 9.

      • paperlions - Apr 27, 2013 at 10:25 AM

        Only because her strike zone would be so tiny that she’d walk a lot.

      • indaburg - Apr 27, 2013 at 1:17 PM

        One of those promotional 15 ft tall wavy arm guys would strike out less than B.J. Upton.

  5. conjecture101 - Apr 27, 2013 at 12:25 AM

    You can laugh but the day is closer than you think. The day in which robot players and robot umpires replace humans in Major League Baseball.

    • kiwicricket - Apr 27, 2013 at 3:14 AM

      You have internet access in your underground bunker?

    • paperlions - Apr 27, 2013 at 10:25 AM

      Except, of course, that wouldn’t happen because no one would watch.

      • nbjays - Apr 27, 2013 at 2:38 PM

        Next project: developing a robot that enjoys watching baseball.

      • paperlions - Apr 27, 2013 at 2:43 PM

        They wouldn’t have to enjoy it, would they? They would just have to have money and be programmed to spend it to watch….it’d probably lead to robot-crime so they could get money to go to games. Wonder what concession stands would sell….and hey, no lines for the John, which is nice.

  6. themuddychicken - Apr 27, 2013 at 12:35 AM

    but… human element!

  7. jlovenotjlo - Apr 27, 2013 at 12:59 AM

    This is how Terminator IV starts

  8. ndnut - Apr 27, 2013 at 1:36 AM

    Didn’t a robot throw the worst pitch ever as a ceremonial first pitch at a Cubs game a while back?

    • jwbiii - Apr 27, 2013 at 8:36 AM

      No, that was Mariah Carey

      Who may or may not be a robot.

  9. baseballisboring - Apr 27, 2013 at 3:13 AM

    Finally…robot players! Just what us stat geeks have always wanted. Human element? No thanks!

  10. historiophiliac - Apr 27, 2013 at 3:56 AM

    So how come they can’t build a robot that doesn’t run into the cat while vacuuming?

    • paperlions - Apr 27, 2013 at 10:26 AM

      Cats are bonus points.

      • wlschneider09 - Apr 27, 2013 at 10:34 AM

        No doubt. If all I ever got to do was vacuum I’d be doing anything and everything to mess with the cat.

    • indaburg - Apr 27, 2013 at 4:25 PM

      Watching the roomba chase after the shih tzu provides hours of entertainment in my house.

  11. steelers88 - Apr 27, 2013 at 7:43 AM

    It looks more like Micheal Myers.

  12. rockthered1286 - Apr 27, 2013 at 8:01 AM

    Hear that Dr. James Andrews? Better go back to school and start working on that robotics degree so you can stay relevant in the game.

    That’s the best I’ve got for 8am folks.

    • nbjays - Apr 27, 2013 at 8:17 AM

      Biogenesis has already hired rogue programmers to work on illegal enhancement code…

      • jwbiii - Apr 27, 2013 at 8:38 AM

        Shh! They pay well!

  13. rbj1 - Apr 27, 2013 at 8:49 AM

    Meh. Everything eventually repeats a Twilight Zone episode. Though that one dealt with robot pitchers.

  14. whiteyj69 - Apr 27, 2013 at 9:13 AM

    So what? The Dominican Republic produced a baseball playing robot almost 34 years ago. “I am not a machine. I am Albert.”

  15. southofheaven81 - Apr 27, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    It pitches 9 strong innings & still has plenty of energy left to murder Laurie Strode.

  16. mclovinhockey - Apr 27, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    @jlove… Terminator 4… Terminator Salvation started like this? I am a pretty big movie buff and can not recall a robot baseball player. Gotta go watch it again

  17. seahonky - Apr 27, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    I think this robot is taking steroids. Sorry. Just my opinion.

  18. bkh405 - Apr 27, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    You mean Basewars, previously only available on your NES, and now in real like?!

    • realgone2 - Apr 27, 2013 at 12:42 PM

      damn beat me to it

  19. realgone2 - Apr 27, 2013 at 12:41 PM

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