Reinventing Bowling: Man vs. Bowling Machine
The scene of the battle is the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in Arlington, Texas. Bowling superstar, Chris Barnes is in one lane practicing his action and tuning his focus. He is about to face a competitor who no man has faced until now: an automated bowling machine.
The entire machine takes up the width of a bowling lane. A blue colored frame made up of two triangles on both sides, with a horizontal shaft connecting the two triangles supporting the machine. The bowling arm of the machine is red in color with black pistons and wires running around it. The name of the machine is EARL: Enhanced Automated Robotic Launcher.
The match begins with Chris Banes stepping up to the mark. He takes a deep breath and release the ball in a smooth motion, with the grace of a ballerina. The bowl rolls down the aisle and demolishes the white pins; Banes begins with a strike. Now the focus shifts to EARL.
The machine bowls an impressive spar the first time around. Mechanics quickly make a few adjustments to EARL. Banes capitalizes on this and bowls a perfect first seven games. EARL tries to keep up, but by the time the machine has found its range, there is no catching the human competition. Chris Banes wins the first Man vs. Bowling Machine contest with a score of 259-209.
EARL has been designed not to go up against human competition but to collect a sufficient amount of data regarding the mechanics of Bowling. This includes rolls, throws, and spin angles. EARL can consistently roll balls over and over again without tiring.
The machine can vary speeds of the ball’s release from 10 to 24 mph. It can also spin the balls from 50 to 900 revolutions per minute. A human cannot produce this range of revolutions.
The extensive data collected from the bowling machine is then used to develop and design equipment of the game such as bowls, pins, and lanes. The data is also used to test the existing rules of the game and modify it if required. EARL is currently being used by the Equipment Specifications and Certifications team of the National Bowling Congress. It replaces Harry, which was another robot used by the United States Bowling Congress since 1999.
Bowling star Chris Banes who took on EARL and defeated it believes that the machine is an important development in laying the groundwork for the future of Bowling.