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Cricket bowling machine masters spin and swing, but not spitballs

Evan Blass

With America almost done fielding its entire robotic baseball team (so far we've got a hitter, shortstop, and a catcher), researchers over in Britain knew that they'd better "get on the ball" and start working on some improved cricketbots in order to keep up in this roboathlete arms race. After two years of hard work and many frail scientists getting pegged by errant cricket balls, professors and students at Loughborough University have finally perfected the latest automated bowler (that's cricket's version of the pitcher) which is able to put any combination of spin and swing on the ball. The machine achieves this human-like feat through a two-part system composed of spinning wheels and corkscrew rifling down the barrel, and is so adept at mimicking professional bowlers that it can recreate the so-called "ball of the century," a 1993 delivery by Shane Warne that made nearly a 90-degree turn between the leg stump and the batter's off-stump (we don't really understand it either, but apparently it was quite an achievement). Up next for the Loughborough team is adding a visual element to their bot, wherein the projection of a human bowler would appear in front of the machine in order to make training sessions that much more realistic. When asked what it thought it about the latest and greatest in automated English projectile hurling, the robotic welly-wanger we recently featured paused for a second, took a sip from its pint of Guinness Boddington's, and slurred, "Bollocks to that bloody twit -- I'll load up a welly and kick its arse."

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