In an epic battle of man versus machine, the newest member of the Equipment Specifications and Certifications team at USBC showed off its skills against USBC spokesperson and Professional Bowlers Association star Chris Barnes at the International Bowling Campus on Tuesday.
While the new addition isn't a professional bowler, it is capable of unmatchable accuracy and consistency on the lanes that no human bowler can achieve. Those qualities make E.A.R.L. (Enhanced Automated Robotic Launcher) invaluable in the many studies necessary to keep up with the ever-changing bowling ball industry.
Members of the media and invited guests were among the first to see what the newest state-of-the-art bowling ball-throwing robot is all about, which includes duplicating 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 its predecessor, Harry, a less-automated robot introduced in 1999 and recently retired.
In a one-game match at the International Training and Research Center (ITRC), Barnes prevailed, 259-209, but he knows the score does not reflect how significant E.A.R.L. ultimately will be in industry research.
"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."
Now that E.A.R.L. has been set up, tested and unveiled, it's time to put the newcomer to work.
"I think we showcased the research side of the ITRC really well today, and this is the start of a whole new era of learning," said Neil Stremmel, USBC Managing Director-National Governing Body. "We've been waiting a long time for E.A.R.L. to be ready, and now we can truly delve into a variety of research projects. E.A.R.L. will be a great resource for us and the bowling industry as a whole."
E.A.R.L. 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."
A joint venture between USBC and the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America, the ITRC, a United States Olympic Committee-recognized training center, is the most innovative and advanced training, research and testing facility in the sport of bowling. The center includes 14 lanes for training and six for research and testing purposes.