Bottle-flipping robots may be the most millennial thing we’ve ever seen

From legal work to picking fruit on farms, it seems that few jobs are safe from the cold, metallic hand of automation. The good news? That when robots can carry out every workplace task, we’ll have plenty more time to focus on the really important things in life, such as perfecting the inexplicably popular millennial activity of learning to flip water bottles so that they land standing up.

At least, that’s what we all figured — until Japan’s recent RoboCon event, in which various teams of high school budding roboticists demonstrated that robots can be pretty darn good at water flipping, too. Terminator never warned us about this doomsday scenario!

As can be seen in the above video, the robots built for the RoboCon event show off an impressive level of variation and innovation. Bear in mind that the teams were made up of people aged between 15 and 20, and that the robots were basically homemade efforts created on a tight budget, and it becomes even more dazzling. The robots are designed to fire multiple bottles in quick succession, and some even do so while on the move.

On the surface, the idea of spending time building robots which can carry out a feat like flipping half-empty bottles of water onto a table is a bit silly. However, the reason bottle flipping became a viral sensation in real life is because it actually takes quite a bit of skill, taking into account fluid dynamics, projectile motion, angular momentum, centripetal force, and gravity. While the habit of teens flipping bottles onto tables may be the bane of parents and teachers everywhere, it’s of interest to real physicists, who have even made predictions about bottle flipping into the subject of an academic paper published in the journal American Journal of Physics.

As a result, a robot which is therefore able to make calculations concerning all of these factors in real time — and to do so with consistently — is pretty darn impressive. And, hey, if the worst thing that comes out of this is getting a younger generation interested in robotics and math, we’ll consider it a win!

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