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Rise of the Machines: Robot challenges top German player at ping-pong

'Agilus' bot's bold Boll ball biff bid

Timo Boll faces the Agilus robot at ping pong. Credit: KUKA

Everyone knows that the robots can already beat the best the human race can offer at chess, Jeopardy, probably global thermonuclear war etc. But for games of agility, until now the human athlete has in general retained his or her superiority.

But that's set to change, as a powerful German robot reckons it can take on a former world number one table-tennis player at his own game - and beat him.

The machine in question is the "Agilus", and the man it aims to beat is top ping-pongist Timo Boll of Germany. Boll was ranked world number one in 2002, and has remained in the global top 10 since then. As at the end of 2013 he was the world number 8.

The fateful match which could see a robot take a top 10 world ranking for the first time is to take place on 11 March, in Shanghai. The event has been organised by the German-headquartered KUKA Robot Group, one of Boll's sponsors, in order to highlight the opening of their new Shanghai factory and the prowess of the Agilus - which the firm describes as "the fastest industrial robot in the world".

According to the company:

The collaboration celebrates the inherent speed, precision, and flexibility of KUKA's industrial robots in tandem with Boll's electrifying and tactical prowess in competition.

Those wishing to witness the possible humiliation of humanity at the grasping attachments of its erstwhile mechanical servants can do so on 11 March here. ®

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