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Robot to throw out first pitch at Phillies game

Apr 19, 2011, 11:38 AM EDT


Wisely anticipating the day when robot technology will replace worn out pitching arms, the University of Pennsylvania has invented a baseball-throwing robot, which has been invited to throw out the first pitch at the Phillies game on Wednesday. PhilleBot, not to be confused with Cliff Lee, will do the honors before Philadelphia’s game with the visiting Milwaukee Brewers, with his only orders “not to injure the Phillie Phanatic.”

“I’m sorry, Dave. But I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

What space-age technology went into construction of the PhillieBot? Well, they started with a Segway scooter

The robot’s computer brain can be infinitely tweaked to change pitch velocity and trajectory, and its arm is a sleek, programmable instrument that also can be used in surgical and manufacturing applications. Moreover, PhillieBot can move.

The engineers started with a Segway, one of those motorized, two-wheeled vehicles sometimes used by tourists and police patrols. They lopped off the top handlebar portion and replaced it with the robotic arm, made by Barrett Technology Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. They added a third wheel for stability.

On top of the arm, the engineers attached a “hand” — initially a store-bought plastic scoop used to play jai-alai. But by game time Wednesday, the plan is to have replaced the plastic hand with a lighter, stronger carbon-fiber model made by Christian Moore, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering.

Finally, just underneath the hand, the group attached a pneumatic cylinder, which delivers a burst of compressed carbon dioxide at just the right instant to snap the wrist forward and release the ball.

Just like Jose Contreras.

I won’t be attending this game, but be sure to notify me when PhillieBot pitches against S-3 of the Pirates:

Robot to throw first out pitch at Phillies game [Boston Herald]
Robot to Throw Out First Pitch at Phillies-Brewers Day Game [The 700 Level]

  1. lewp - Apr 19, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    Unlike Cliff Lee, lets hope the robot never has to marry. It’s always good when you can make your own decisions.