September 17, 2021

The world’s first robot squash coach teaches a Scottish man.

Scientists unveiled a high-tech way to improve squash players with a robot coach this month.

Invented by experts at Herodotus University in Edinburgh. £ 18,000 to touch up on droid pepper technique. Like swinging and hitting balls.

Scottish man Matt gets some high tech coaching tips from Pepper.

3.

Scottish man Matt gets some high tech coaching tips from Pepper.Credit: Andrew Barr.
But 20 years after his last game, it's too early for the Mets.

3.

But 20 years after his last game, it’s too early for the Mets.Credit: Andrew Barr.

But is a friendly robot programmed by a group of Jackie Buffons that can really make you a better player?

Chief feature writer Matt Bendoris brought his old dusty squash racket from the bottom to get some points from the pepper.


Getting instructions from a 3-foot-11-inch robot with a baby-like sound is like being trained by a V-Jimmy Cranky clone.

And boy did I need some coaching because my squash technique was clearly rusty like a droid left in the rain because I hadn’t played a game in 20 years.

Paint-sized pepper quietly played on the court at Herod Watt University in Urim, Scotland’s National Performance Center for Edinburgh.

If the robot had any idea about my 80’s style headbands, he was keeping them.

I was warned not to hit Pepper with a squash ball because he (the boot is gender neutral, of course) feared doing some serious damage to 18,000 high-tech gizmos.

However, its programmer Martin Ross has admitted that he is considering adding an “ouch” option to any stray balls.

Turns out I don’t need my old racket because the university handle has a sensor that picks up 12 different figures from the swing – feeding them back to the robot.

When I warmed up, Pepper booted up and after a few minutes we were ready to start our man vs machine coaching session.

Pepper said: “Hello, welcome to today’s session. Today we will try to improve your forehand drive.

“Please run a set of 30 for hand drives to see your technique.”

Thirty I will be lucky to hit three after all these years.

But after a few shots, Pepper says: “Don’t worry, we can continue to improve together.”

You do not need to read the binary to know that this was the code for “You Hoffen”.

Pepper then asks me to touch his head if I want to improve my racquet technique or if I want to do something else to improve his hand.

The robot is trolling me right now.

I choose another trip and am greeted with words of encouragement, including “Great game … good shot.”

But when my next shot went bad, Paper asked, “Was the racquet on the ball?” Now the robot is just trolling me.

Finally, Druid says, “It’s enough that you can stop there,” before directing me to clear my mind, because I just want you to focus on one thing in the next set.

Coaching is now turning into a full therapy session.

Then Pepper tells me, “Racket open your face”, then “Bow your face … Continue your pursuit.”

The subtle differences really do make a difference and so far I’ve been advancing with Pepper which includes: “The work above … good … great.”

Then Martin Ross, a PhD student who started the Paper Project three years ago as a deep squash player, told me: “We basically wanted to see people like this robot How to increase motivation to practice.


Scott scientists have created the world’s first robot squash coach – with over 8,000 phrases to help players.


“Solo practice is widely used by elite squash players and it is really beneficial to improve their quality – but the sessions are also very boring so it is not used much by club players.

“We thought something like Pepper might be able to encourage them along with coaching, especially when coaching is not available.”

In fact, though, famous coaches like Sir Alex Ferguson are not as polite as Pepper.

Martin, who was born in Inverness, 26, added:

“Robot has embedded 12 different coaching styles and the idea is to try and make the right choice for each player.

Sir Alex mode.

“So some people will respond better in the Alex Ferguson style and some will respond in a softer, more encouraging way.

“We really want Pepper to be able to choose the person he is coaching for.”

He adds: “The sound we have chosen is very childish so the players are not scared. But once again we can reconsider it depending on how the players respond. ۔

Martin and his team have so far collected 8,000 phrases from real-life coaches for robot use.

But there are no plans to include any Ferguson exploits used on the touchline, as they may cause the pepper to short circuit.

“Pepper is designed as a social robot because squash is a social activity,” says Martin.

“It doesn’t need a rest or lunch break so they can use it at any time. We’re working with top coaches throughout the project to find out what they want from the robot.

“But the robot is not designed to replace the real coach. I hope a lot of peppers can be extracted to help them.

“It would be great to see squash clubs because it would be a great way to get people interested in the game. It makes it a little more exciting.”

‘Great Insight’

Pepper arms can also be programmed to show shots in the future.

But be warned, ‘Boot records every word you say in court which Martin will analyze later – so you keep it clean.

Testing on pepper will continue until March, but Scottish squash’s Paul Bell has already praised the high-tech project.

“It has the potential to provide great insights into how robotics can help improve athletes’ performance,” he said.

The Prime Minister of Scotland, Ian Stewart, said: “This is a great example of how robots can help us improve our education in various areas of our daily lives.”

But did it make me better as a player? Well, my four-hand drive fan ended up on the Dubai Doze.

Although by the time we finished our session, my body was in full on disaster recovery mode.

Martin Ross, a PhD student, revived pepper.

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Martin Ross, a PhD student, revived pepper.Credit: Andrew Barr.
Is this the best squash shot ever?


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