Developed by a team of researchers at Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, ESTHER (Experimental Sport Tennis Wheelchair Robot) is a wheelchair-based robot designed to play tennis. The team was led by Assistant Professor of Interactive Computing Dr. Matthew Gombolay, who named the robot after Dutch wheelchair tennis world champion Esther Vergeer.
The robot is built around a motorized version of a wheelchair designed specifically for playing wheelchair tennis, with the addition of a racket-holding robotic arm in its seat. The robot uses optical-tracking technology to figure out where it needs to be on the court in order to meet the ball with its racket at the predicted intercept point in the ball’s trajectory. Currently, the robot is able to hit balls launched by a machine and has started to learn how to hit against human players. That definitely beats just hitting human players.
The researchers hope that in the future their robot might actually be able to volley against human opponents, and potentially be used as a training tool. Me? I’m hoping the robot can also be trained to hit the objects kids throw at me when I’m yelling at them to stop playing in front of my house. Kids these days, I swear. They have good aim.