Rise of the Boxing Trainer-Robot

By Robert Ecksel on January 9, 2019
Rise of the Boxing Trainer-Robot
Let us savor the inexorable rise of the machines and hope for the best. (Daniel Cooper)

The reporter gave the BotBoxer a whirl, “despite being a total novice in the world of boxing,” and the results were not encouraging…

Technology will be our salvation or damnation, whichever comes first. While waiting for the future to put its cards on the table, we can savor the inexorable rise of machines, say our prayers and hope for the best.

Among the many advances which distract us from the art of simply being, none is so relevant, at least for our purposes, than the BotBoxer, a boxing trainer-robot created by SkyTech Sport. STS primarily makes gym equipment, but it also makes simulators used to train the US Olympic ski team when snow is out of season or thousands of miles away, so it has some nuts and bolts experience in the game.

In a burst of inspiration, five years ago the Los Angeles-based company, in a what-the- world-needs-now moment, dreamed up the idea of a boxing trainer-robot, which it recently unveiled at a tech show in Las Vegas.

Writing about the trainer-robot on engadget.com, Daniel Cooper, who describes himself as a “robo-lover, not a robo-fighter,” gave the latest whatchamacallit a whirl, “despite being a total novice in the world of boxing,” and the results were not encouraging.

The reporter described the thingamajig as “a punchbag on a stick” which is “loaded up with a number of sensors that can detect pressure and movement. The stick is then connected to a base and held in place with a series of cables that can angle it around to dodge blows during sparring.”

The sensors have more sense than some humans found in gyms and “can analyze your feet and body position to determine your stance, and predict where you’re about to hit. Knowing this, the bag can bob and weave around to avoid your punches to make the ideal sparring partner when your trainer is unavailable.”

To humanize the “punchbag on a stick” and turn it into a cornerman of your dreams, “one of BotBoxer’s trainers,” a disembodied female voice named Bo “who knows their way around a boxing ring, gave the reporter “a crash course in how not to suck at boxing, and any injury I sustained was through no fault of her excellent teaching. That included how to use my body to power my strikes and how not to smash my hand to pieces when punching.”

The “voice guidance” system is designed “to help you improve. Sometimes that’s as simple as telling you to step back, or adjust your stance, through to being told you need more power in your strike. Hit badly, or at a potentially injurious angle, and you’ll get a sound effect that’ll let you know you’ve done something wrong.”

Whether that sound effect resembles the clanging of a bell or a haranguing Teddy Atlas was not revealed. But don’t be concerned, because “The BotBoxer is very customizable, and you can tweak features like motion, consistency, distance and reaction. You can even set it so that, if you hit it successfully several times on the bounce, it’ll get less reactive and woozier, like a punch-drunk boxer.”

Before you get all worked up in anticipation of hitting “a punch-drunk boxer” robot, be forewarned that “this isn’t the sort of device I’d suggest a beginner just rock up and try, since you need a good grounding in the art of boxing.” Daniel Cooper is something of a novice with some “grounding in the very basics of the sport,” but “still managed to pull a muscle in my right arm and hurt my hand pretty decently.”

If that’s not reason enough to steer clear of this machine, perhaps the $19,900 price tag will do the trick.

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