There’s a new basketball star in Japan, a ‘top team signing who runs, shoots and scores with admirable accuracy’, but this player — CUE 4 — is a robot developed by Toyota technicians (www.toyota-global.com
On its first public appearance
late in 2019, it was quick to demonstrate its high-level skills, performing consecutive free throws and three-point shots; and unlike earlier models, this CUE can run and has a human-like hand that can grasp and throw a ball.
A group of Toyota volunteers has been developing the CUE AI basketball robot since May 2018, constantly improving its performance in terms of movement ability and skill.
The previous iteration — CUE 3 — set a new world record last summer by landing more than 2,000 consecutive baskets.
To raise CUE’s game-playing skills, its power cables have been replaced by a small but powerful motor.
Also, the swaying of the machine after making a shot was affecting its accuracy, so the shooting movement has been optimised to keep CUE perfectly balanced; and whereas CUE 3 had to be ‘loaded’ with a ball by a human assistant for each shot, the development of a gripping hand means that this is no longer necessary.
These and other issues called for a revision of every element, from the sensors and internal framework to the artificial-intelligence (AI) algorithms.
Project leader Tomohiro Nomi said: “Since we were given the chance to continue our development of CUE as part of our work, instead of just in our spare time, we wanted to show what we could do with manufacturing to give people some excitement and exhilaration.
"I shared my ideas with the Levanga basketball team in Hokkaido, and the staff and players unanimously agreed to accept CUE as one of their own.”