Robotics and AI should improve people's lives. Why don't they help me suck less while doing sports? Engineer and YouTuber Shane Wighton tackled this incredibly pressing problem with one of the smartest mechanical creations I've seen online: a basketball hoop that ensures you don't miss a shot.
The core of how it works can be found in the following GIF. Sensors track the trajectory of each shot and motors attached to the backboard adjust their angle to deflect the ball into the tire. However, Wighton's video (from its Stuff Made Here channel) goes into a few intriguing details and explains both the underlying technology and the design process.
Boom, one more. Boom, one more.
GIF: Shane Wighton / YouTube
For example, the whole process of tracking the shot, calculating the angle and adjusting the backboard has to be done in just 600 milliseconds. This is no time at all. This meant that Wighton really needed to tweak its design to move it as lightly and therefore as easily as possible. That's why the motors that power the thing are attached to the rear frame rather than the backboard itself, and why the support struts are hollowed out: all to reduce weight and make it easier to angle the backboard at high speeds.
There's also a lot of cleverness on the software side, powered by a Microsoft Kinect that is loved by DIY hackers everywhere. This includes a facial recognition feature that indicates whether Wighton or his wife are shooting. This allows unfair and very fun cheating. I can only imagine a spoiled tech CEO installing one of these machines in his home basketball court to make sure he never loses a game. There is also a similar construction (which Wighton mentions) by YouTuber Mark Rober from 2017: a moving dart board that gives you a porthole with every shot.
In any case, you can watch the full video from Wighton if you want a clear and entertaining explanation of how it works. Next job: A robot that helps me immerse myself.