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Bowling robot E.A.R.L. – Enhanced Automated Robotic Launcher

By Damir Beciri
22 October 2010

e-a-r-l-bowling-robotAfter months of calibrations and testing, the newest member of the Equipment Specifications and Certifications team at the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) is a state-of-the-art ball-throwing robot named E.A.R.L. (Enhanced Automated Robotic Launcher), which is designed to be able to simulate any type of bowling style with an accuracy and consistency on the lanes that no human bowler can achieve.

USBC’s newcomer was named by USBC Junior Gold youth bowler Melissa Stewart of Roswell, Ga. She figured if bowling great Earl Anthony’s nickname was “The Machine”, then it was only “fitting to name the new ball-throwing robot for a bowler with machine-like characteristics.”

“We are excited to finally show off E.A.R.L. and give people their first look at the future of bowling research”, said Neil Stremmel, USBC Managing Director-National Governing Body. “E.A.R.L. will play a huge role in the testing we do here to maintain the standards of the game, and we’re excited about the possibilities.”

The data collected by E.A.R.L. is used to set official rules for the game and design equipment like lanes, balls, and even pins. E.A.R.L. can consistently duplicate shot after shot at ball speeds anywhere from 10-24 miles per hour and rev rates anywhere from 50-900 rpm, a significantly wider range than his predecessor Harry – a less-automated robot introduced in 1999 which was recently retired.

On its public unveiling E.A.R.L. got a pretty decent average but didn’t make a perfect score. It made his debut at the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in Arlington, Texas, where it bowled against PBA superstar Chris Barnes and lost with a score of 209 opposed to 259.

“They bowled a 300 with [E.A.R.L.] last month, but it’s tough because he lays the ball down in exactly the same spot every time so after only a couple of shots, the oil changes and it’s hard to strike consistently”, said Matt Lawson, director of video production for the USBC. “Of course, he’s not really intended to bowl matches.”

“E.A.R.L. has more abilities than any of the robots I’ve seen before, and to have something to use for testing that is as precise and dependable is very important for the future of the sport”, Barnes said. “I am a fan of technology, and I’m really intrigued by what E.A.R.L. can do. Today was a lot of fun, and I’m sure when they have some more time to work with it, it will only get better. I’m not sure I want a rematch in six months.”

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