BallBOPPer - First Look
The BallBOPPer from RoBOPPics is the world's first autonomous tennis training robot.
The BallBOPPer has been developed for use by competitive tennis players, coaches and their clubs.
The ultimate goal for a tennis robot like the BallBOPPer is the realistic simulation of competitive play. A tennis Player can practice with the BallBOPPer robot in preparation for playing a human opponent. That human opponent might be an aggressive baseliner, a serve-and-volleyer, or an all-court player — the robot is able to simulate the rally play of any style and skill level, along with the related set of tactics and strategy.
The version of the BallBOPPer pictured above is a pre-production prototype in the final stages of development for the launch on Kickstarter. Aesthetic and engineering design elements, and the descriptions of BallBOPPer features below, are subject to change.
The BallBOPPer simulates tennis "Patterns of Play" across a broad range of levels and styles, delivering high-caliber training in tennis skills, tactics and strategy.
The BallBOPPer "Core" feature set includes:
Small and easy to transport
The BallBOPPer is intended for daily use by tennis coaches and players on any standard tennis court. It stands knee high — and is about the size of a piece of carry-on luggage. The robot is small enough to fit into a car trunk or backseat, and rolls easily using the telescoping handle and it's "spinner" wheels.
Ball Bucket and ball retriever
The BallBOPPer's "Ball Bucket" makes it super easy and fast to retrieve the balls. The player unsnaps the Ball Bucket from the BallBOPPer, settles the Ball Bucket over each ball to reload it, and then snaps the Ball Bucket back into the BallBOPPer to begin hitting again — all without dropping a beat.
High Powered Interchangeable Batteries
The BallBOPPer is a battery operated robot - no extension cord or power supply needed. The Battery Rack on the rear of the BallBOPPer holds up to 4 Lithium Ion batteries (2 for the BallBOPPer Core system, and 2 for the Autonomous Rover Add-on) providing for a substantial run-time even at the highest performance levels. These batteries are fully interchangeable such that freshly charged batteries can be swapped in as needed to achieve an essentially unlimited run-time. The BallBOPPer Core comes with one battery and a battery charger. Additional batteries and chargers will be available separately.
Precision AI Powered Ball Launcher
The BallBOPPer's ball launching system is able to launch balls from any of 20 locations on the simulated opponent's side of the court, and land them on any of 39 "spots" on the Player's side of the court. Each ball can be launched with its own individual Player defined launch point, height, spin and landing spot.
The BallBOPPer utilizes a combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and microelectronic sensors to ensure full-court accuracy. The Player is not required to precisely position or aim the BallBOPPer — the robot does this all by itself "autonomously".
Pattern Designer/Playlist App
The BallBOPPer's features are fully controlled through the iPhone and Android app. This App provides the Player or Coach with the ability to design and run a standard or custom set of drills, workouts or "Patterns of Play". The BallBOPPer App includes a "Shot Designer" that allows the Player to specify from over 25,000 flight path, height, and spin combinations. A catalog of standard Patterns is included, and the user can create any number of their own custom Patterns. These standard and custom Patterns can then be sequenced together into a "Playlist" and then run from beginning to end for a repeatable, full-length training session.
The BallBOPPer smartphone App is a rich and flexible "platform" that is intended for the design of precision repeatable "pattern training" sessions for the development of tennis skills, tactics and strategy.
The App will be more fully explored in a future article.
Hands Free Voice Control
While a Player can try to play while keeping their smartphone handy, this is not recommended. To keep your smartphone out of harms way, the BallBOPPer comes with a sports headset that connects via Bluetooth to the Player's smartphone and the BallBOPPer App. The Player can then instantly Start, Stop, Pause, and initiate new "Patterns", from any location on the court, simply by speaking the associated BallBOPPer commands.
Super-bright Display Screen
The front face of the BallBOPPer includes a 3x8 inch super-bright LED screen. This screen keeps the player updated on the robot's operational status, and provides feedback and general information during play.
Over The Air "Evolving" Software
The capabilities of the BallBOPPer are generated by the software running on the on-board computers as well as the software underlying the App on your smartphone. These software applications are designed to be updated "Over the Air" by connecting to the Player's home WiFi network. This connection keeps the BallBOPPer updated with new features immediately after they have been developed and tested.
The features described above are included in the BallBOPPer Core. There are three optional "Add-ons" that the Player can add that transform the Core into a fully autonomous mobile robot.
The BallBOPPer "Add-on" features include:
Auto Reloader Add-on
RoBOPPics offers an optional Auto Reloader Add-on that attaches to the rear of the robot. The Reloader pulls balls directly from the playing surface and inserts them back into the Ball Bucket. With the Auto Reloader Add-on, the Player can roll the BallBOPPer around the court and efficiently "vacuum" the balls back into the robot.
Autonomous Rover Add-on
RoBOPPics offers an optional autonomous drive system that attaches underneath the robot. The Autonomous Rover Add-on can propel and navigate the BallBOPPer around the court. This allows the BallBOPPer to position itself at different locations on the court before running each Pattern in the Playlist.
When the Autonomous Rover Add-on is teamed with the Auto Reloader Add-on, the BallBOPPer can rove around the court, locate and automatically reload the balls without assistance from the Player or Coach. It will then reposition itself on the court, and resume running the Pattern from where it left off. *
* The Autonomous Rover Add-on on Kickstarter is designed for hard courts. Rover Add-ons specifically designed for clay and grass courts will be made available separately.
SprintAI Navigator Add-on
RoBOPPics offers an optional Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered navigational system called the SprintAI Navigator Add-on. This component adds a high-speed navigation computer and additional high-speed sensors. Equipped with SprintAI along with the appropriate Autonomous Rover Add-on, the BallBOPPer gains the capability to navigate the court at higher speeds. This capability allows the BallBOPPer to reposition itself between the firing of each ball — giving it the capability to simulate competitive play at a completely new level of fidelity.