Japan's volleyball team test their spikes against robot blockers

These pre-programmed training bots can move faster than human players.

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Tom Regan
April 13th, 2017
YouTube, New Scientist
YouTube, New Scientist

In a bid to give its national volleyball team an edge, Japan has enlisted the help of high-tech training robots. According to New Scientist, these bizarre-looking bots are used to mimic the opposing team's defense and are made up of three pairs of hands attached to a mobile torso. Mounted to a track, these new digital defense droids slide up and down to pre-set positions, allowing players to test out their spike shots against many different team formations.

Known as the "block machine" these rapid robots can travel at speeds of up to 3.7 meters per second, easily outpacing human players. So far these training machines have been used successfully in several of training sessions for Japan's national woman's volleyball team. Yet, with these robots only currently capable of moving in predetermined directions, coaches are looking into equipping them with motion sensors for more lifelike and unpredictable training sessions.

This phenomenon has started to gain traction across the globe, with the NFL already experimenting with training dummies that are remotely controlled from the sidelines. With the blocking machines freakishly long limbs, these robots could also be perfectly suited to helping teams with similar basketball exercises or even used for martial arts training. Still, even if these bots fail to win Japan any medals, they'll at least have a place in Nintendo's bizarre new floppy-limbed fighting game, ARMS.

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