Ah, ping-pong — that other reason you spent hours hanging out in your buddy’s basement. Over the last few decades the sport has gone from being the savior of U.S./Chinese relations to that thing hipsters who work at tech startups seem to really enjoy. But you mostly love it because it’s something at which a 5-year-old and 35-year-old have can have an equal measure of skill.
If you’ve decided ping-pong is the fastest way for you to raise an Olympic champion, Trainerbot will be your kid’s coach for a fraction of what it would cost to fly Deng Yaping over for a tutorial. This smartphone-connected wireless device holds 30 ping-pong balls and fires them at random intervals and levels of difficulty. All you have to do is pair it to your iPhone, select the level of difficulty, and Trainerbot will bring the pain. It even has a multiplayer mode that fires at different rates to either side of the net. Just try asking Roomba to serve a ball with varying spin rotation and velocity. It can’t. And that’s because Roomba hates fun!
Trainerbot was invented by brothers Alex and Harrison Chen, who loved 2 things growing up: Building robots and playing ping-pong together. When they went off to school in different parts of the world they stumbled on the idea of creating a robot that could fill in for their brother, which sounds like the backstory to a Marvel villain.
For your needs, this device could be the start of a kids’ rec room powered by “the Internet of Things.” Unfortunately, you know how Kickstarter goes, so Trainerbot won’t be available for shipment until summer of 2017. Until then, you’re just going to have to let the human version win.