Business / Tech

Basketball robot Cue3 and B. League's Alvark Tokyo join Olympic effort to teach students math

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

In an unusual combination of disciplines, a basketball-shooting robot created by Japan’s leading automaker helped students at a Tokyo elementary school on Friday to learn math.

The physically active math lesson was joined by professional players from the B. League’s Alvark Tokyo basketball team as well as Cue3, a humanoid robot made by one of the team’s major sponsors, Toyota Motor Corp. The special class was part of Tokyo 2020 Math Drill, a learning program that incorporates 55 official sports from the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics into math classes to provide fun learning opportunities.

Sixth-graders at Fuchu Elementary School No. 10 in the city of Fuchu were divided into groups of 13 to 17 students. Each student shot the ball once and calculated the success rates for each group, making it an exercise in using fractions. The group that scored highest got to compete against players Daiki Tanaka and Joji Takeuchi. The players shot 3-pointers while the students were allowed to shoot 2-pointers.

Wearing a red uniform, the 204-centimeter Cue3 joined the student teams in two separate sessions to help improve their success rate. The robot went 10 for 10.

“I was really surprised by the accuracy of Cue3,” said one student after the lesson.

The robot uses a time-of-flight camera that measures the distance between itself and surrounding objects by laser to pinpoint the location of the hoop. Its computer also “learns” from ball trajectory data and adjusts its shooting strength independently.

Cue3 was developed by young Toyota engineers as a voluntary project. It later became an official company project to promote basketball and the Nagoya-based automaker after video clips of the robot in action created a buzz on social media.

The robot is registered as an official member of Alvark Tokyo. The third-generation Cue3, with a longer shooting range that allows it to shoot from midcourt, was unveiled in April.