Engineers love to do crazy things and when they involve robots, we love to tell you about them. We've reported on a lot of ping-pong playing robots over the years but usually they're based on conventional industrial robot arms or humanoid arm designs. What if, instead of a multi-jointed arm, you wanted to design a cartesian ping-pong playing robot? That is, a robot that can only move linearly on an X, Y, and Z axis. That's the question Hossein Jahandideh and his fellow engineers asked themselves.
Between bouts of eating this Thanksgiving weekend you might want to head outside and toss a football, shoot some hoops or kick a soccer ball around to get a little exercise. If the weather's nasty (or if you live in Buffalo) perhaps Ping Pong or a game of pool will do. Can't get any people in your house off the couch? Of course "a robot that plays soccer" could mean anything from a little cube 15 centimeters high that pushes a tiny ball on a tabletop field, to supersize automatons. For holiday fun I've collected videos of humanoids as well as nonhuman-like contraptions that play a real game on a real surface--with a little latitude for "real."
The team behind Musical.ly has a new video messaging app it says will be the "ultimate video messenger" -- just don't expect to be able to use it yet. Called pingpong, details about the app are scarce but it appears as though the company may be positioning it as a possible Snapchat competitor. The app was quietly added to the App Store Feb. 9, according to analytics from App Annie, but it appears as though it's still in some sort of pre-launch phase as users can't log into the app or access anything beyond the initial launch screen. Still, we can glean a few details based on the App Store description and the app's slash screen. Described as "the ultimate video messenger" in its App Store description, pingpong allows you to record video messages you can share with your friends.
They might have anticipated trouble more than a year ago had they noticed one key indicator. Until late 2014, Twitter was regularly ordering ping-pong tables from Billiard Wholesale, a store in San Jose, Calif. The store's owner, Simon Ng, figured it either ran out of space "or they're having company problems." Twitter Inc.'s slowing user growth has been unsettling analysts, and the company's revenue growth was unexpectedly weak in last week's report. Asked why Twitter stopped buying tables, spokesman Jim Prosser says: "I guess we bought really sturdy ones."
Is it true that as table tennis sales go, so goes the tech industry? Some traditional indicators don't bode well for Silicon Valley, with a big one being that IPO numbers in the first quarter of this year are at their lowest since the dismal days of 2008. And the Wall Street Journal reports that a far less traditional indicator isn't too rosy, either: Sales of ping-pong tables are down. Consider these two stats: Sales of tables at Billiard Wholesale in San Jose are down 50% the first three months of this year, and startup funding is down 25% over the same period. "Last year, the quarter was hot," says the owner, but now "there's a general slowdown."