Some day in the not-too-distant future, when you are granted a brief reprieve from forced, backbreaking labor under the merciless watch of your cyborg overseers, you will be able to tell your children – if they are still alive – about the day everything changed, when the robots slowly began their hostile takeover and enslavement of humankind. And it will not begin with a violent thunder of cybernetic violence but with a whimper. And that whimper will be of a primitive robot throwing out a ceremonial first pitch. That’s right: the machines shall rise and it will be the date of the 20th of April in the year 2011 that we will look back to and realize that is precisely the moment when things began to go awry.
You see, prior to Wednesday’s game between the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, PhillieBot, a one-armed, three-wheeled robot designed by engineers at the University of Pennsylvania will handle the ceremonial first pitch duties, rendering moot the usefulness of presidents, mayors, radio personalities, supermodels and other assorted quasi-celebrities who have usually handled such duties.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports the pitching robot has been in the makings for a month and a half as Penn engineers Jordan Brindza and Jamie Gewirtz assembled parts and wrote software.
They started with a Segway, gave it a robotic arm and added a third wheel. They also gave it a pneumatic cylinder, which delivers a burst of compressed carbon dioxide to power the pitch.
The robot’s computer brain can be tweaked to change pitch velocity and trajectory.
Violet Smith never thought she would live to see the day when robots would initiate their assault on humans, first by infiltrating honored traditions of our national pastime, next culminating with violence, bloodshed and ultimately, enslavement. And possibly, if we’re lucky, some peanuts and Cracker Jacks. And you should care that you’ll never get back.
The end is nigh, my friends. Treasure your rapidly dwindling freedom. On a side note, I for one welcome our new robotic ceremonial pitching overlords. Despite their cold, analytical and emotionless intelligence, for some reason, they are prone to succumbing to flattery. Just a head’s up.
Note: yes, I admit there is certainly some congruency issues stemming from the juxtaposition between the dire future I have painted in this post and the use of the Johnny 5 robot from the Short Circuit film series as a means of illustration. Let me just say that it isn’t as off-kilter as it appears. Just ask Fisher Stevens. If you can find him. “Who’s Johnny?” my ass.