The top honors in the world of ping pong are the TableTennisNation.com Man and Woman of the Year. As part of our Best of 2014 Coverage, we’re proud to bring you the winners of this incredible award. Decisions are based on interactions on facebook and twitter and debates at Table Tennis Nation headquarters. Brought to you by PaddleYou’s game improving customizable ping pong paddles.
2014’s Table Tennis Nation Man of the Year is Timo Boll. Timo Boll has been a professional ping pong player for years, but never had as significant a moment as he did in 2014 when he defeated the Kuka Agilus robot.
Beating a robot at table tennis may not seem like a big deal, but over the last few years we’ve seen incredible improvements in the ways that robots play and learn table tennis. Ping pong has become one of the de facto testing methods in robotics and it allows researchers and developers to see how capable the robot is of making quick decisions and learning on the fly and table tennis is the perfect environment for that.
Timo Boll was selected for the either incredibly enviable or totally unenviable position of playing the world’s fastest robot in a table tennis match. If Boll had lost, it would have been like Watson beating the world’s best players at Jeopardy and we would definitively no longer be the best table tennis players in existence.
The match not only captured the imaginations of the table tennis community, but people everywhere were intrigued and excited by the match. Man vs machine will always draw a crowd.
While the match had some minimal controversy, Boll prevailed and, in turn, protected the human spot atop the athletic pyramid. Robots still have yet to defeat humans at skill sports and Boll served as a gatekeeper who sent scientists back to the lab. This may all seem like an overstatement, but as we have learned throughout history, once a robot is better than a human at something, there’s no going back to human dominance. For 2014, we are still the best ping pong players and we have Timo Boll to thank.
Congratulations Timo Boll, you’re Table Tennis Nation’s 2014 Man of the Year.