With Houston Rockets star Yao Ming facing a foot injury that could possibly end his season, if not his career, Chinese scientists are racing to complete an updated, more structurally sound model of their giant, animatronic, basketball robot-man.
“We have learned many very important lessons since we created the first Yao Ming basketball robot,” said Dr. Wen Yunpeng, who led the project at the Beijing University of Technology. “Most of all, for a robot of such size and weight, we need to improve the strength and durability of the feet. The service record has not been acceptable on the current Yao Ming.”
While Yao Ming 1.0 was durable in its first three years of NBA service, since the 2005-2006 season the basketball robot has required repeated renovations and repairs, usually on the lower “body.”
Therefore, Dr. Yunpeng and his team are focusing their redesign efforts on Yao Ming 2.0’s bottom half. But they also are spending extensive time on recreating the robot’s social interface, as well.
“With 1.0, I think we erred on the side of making the robot too nice and friendly so Americans would welcome it and not be intimidated by it,” said Dr. Yunpeng. “And we succeeded at that. But the deferential attitude was not helpful on the court. For a 7-foot-6, titanium enforced robot, Yao Ming 1.0 got pushed around far too much.”
Armed with stronger robot feet and a more intense attitude, the Chinese team of scientists is confident Yao Ming 2.0 will achieve the original project of the goal: proving the superiority of Chinese science via a Chinese-created robot winning an NBA title.
“This was our race to the moon,” said Dr. Yunpeng. “And we’re almost there. We may have some setbacks along the way, we may even lose a life or two. And, if we have some luck, that life will be Tracy McGrady’s.”