The Ball Inverted Pendulum: The Bowling Robot
May 16, 2010 | by MDeeDubroff

Japan is a robot-crazed nation with bots that do everything from sit in dentist chairs to playing sports and serving as surrogate girlfriends for geeky introverts.

Still, even for Japan, a robot that bowls seems at least a little bit over the edge. And yet welcome the Ball Inverted Pendulum (BallP) to the fickle and dynamic world of automatons.

The director of Tohoku Gakuin University’s Robot Development Engineering Laboratory, Dr. Masaaki Kumagai, has created a 20-inch, 16.5-pound robot whose name comes from the bowling ball on top of which it is balanced.

Although balancing bots have been created before, this one is different. The BallP balances ON TOP OF a ball. What this means to the dynamic world of automatons isn’t exactly clear, but it does make the BallP different from others of its ilk.

BallP can actually carry equipment both by itself and also with a human accomplice, making it possibly marketable as a versatile metal butler/ fetcher/wheelbarrow of sorts. The bot is able to do this via a combination of motors, gyroscopes, micro-step controllers and accelerometers. Its three omni-directional wheels can make it stand still, spin in place, move in any direction and pivot on a vertical axis.

The BallP uses what are known as holonomic-type wheels on a bowling ball covered with rubber. These special wheels-within-wheels render an additional axis of motion which allows the robots that use them to rotate in place.

What will follow BallP is anyone’s guess.

Japan keeps topping itself with new and different bots that do new and different things.

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How about a bot giving birth to another bot?

I don’t think anyone could ever top that!

What do YOU think about this?




M Dee Dubroff is the penname of this freelance writer and former teacher originally from Brooklyn, New York. A writer of ghostly and horror fiction, she has branched out into the world of humorous non fiction writing and maintains eight web sites covering a wide variety of topics. She also writes feature articles for several local newspapers. Her book entitled: A Taste of Funny, and her website, Eat, Drink And Really Be Merry ( feature many well researched and humorous articles on the subject of food and drink.
  • Japan's robotics industry is perhaps the most advanced in the world, especially taking into consideration the extent to which the robots simulate human morphology

  • This reminds me of a VERY old game. Wild Metal West. Something like that. You have a tank and your supposed to kill the other tanks. Each tank looks unique, and one of my favorites, was a tank without tracks, but that used antigravity of something to float on top a ball.

  • Just another step towards a future where humanity is enslaved by robots. This is another skill they’ll have over our soft, slow, illogical species.

    (I’m being facetious, in case people couldn’t tell)

  • Thank you all for your most interesting comments.

  • I think one thing that Japan's Robotics Developments show is that while we in the US don't seem to see pure RESEARCH on ways to solve robotics problems as worthy of much attention, or much funding, Japan seems to see this kind of research as the way forward for the entire field of robotics. And I'd say that entire view of research into problem solving is why Japan is forging ahead, if not already ahead, in nearly every field of technology. We in the US seem to have forgot what we once learned, to wit; it doesn't take a multi-million dollar grant to build things worth having, if you spend a fair portion of that grant learning how to design and build them. And profitability follows other abilities, which must be learned, as opposed to floundering along in hopes of getting lucky about making money.
    Sorry, this isn't very clear. But I think we in America better wake up to the need for pure, fun, engineering research, and start paying people to learn how, instead of only paying people to build what.

  • sony is good enough… soon we will have killing robots

  • this is cool but tell me when robo cop comes to the streets then ill be interested

  • I clicked on the link expecting to read an article on a robot playing BOWLING.

    I was disappointed.

  • Sorry, but… Ballbot owns, and it was invented in 2006…

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