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Robot can bowl a perfect strike every time

U.S. Bowling Congress shows off EARL, a programmable, one-armed bowling robot that it uses to design and test equipment like lanes, balls, and even pins.

EARL: Thinner than any bowler I've ever seen. USBC

Here's something that you, readers, might not know about Yours Truly: I am a hard-core bowler. I've been in a league for years here in Seattle, so when I found out about this automatic bowling robot named EARL, I pounced on it.

EARL (Enhanced Automated Robotic Launcher) is a one-armed robo used by the Equipment Specifications and Certifications team of the National Bowling Congress to test gear.

EARL can be programmed to roll consistent shots over and over, can throw from 10 to 24 mph, and can spin balls up from 50 to 900 revolutions per minute, a much wider range than a human bowler can. EARL replaces Harry, a robot the USBC used since 1999, but has recently retired (no word if EARL and Harry ever bowled against each other).

The data collected by EARL is used to set official rules for the game and design equipment like lanes, balls, and even pins.

Today marked the first time EARL has been shown to the public, and it appears he's got a pretty decent average. He made his debut at the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in Arlington, Texas, where he bowled against PBA superstar Chris Barnes--and lost 259 to 209.

"They bowled a 300 with [EARL] 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."

That's a good thing, since we always pull for the human in such situations--our future robot overlords already have too much to gloat about.

Update, October 20 at 1:36 p.m. PDT: We added a new video of the human-robot matchup and a quote from Matt Lawson of the USBC.