How to & Guides

Meet the Revolutionary Pitching Robot That Flawlessly Mimics Every Human Throw

Who’s your favorite baseball pitcher? Do you idolize Shane McClanahan, Sandy Alcantara, or Justin Verlander? Well, here’s some exciting news for you! Two of the top sports-tech companies in the U.S., Rapsodo and Trajekt Sports, have joined forces to create a robot version of your favorite pitcher. And the results? Absolutely mind-blowing!

Now, before you start picturing a walking, talking, pitching robot straight out of a sci-fi movie, let us clarify. Rapsodo and Trajekt have combined their expertise and cutting-edge technologies to develop a machine capable of accurately simulating the pitching style of any player you want to practice against. It’s a game-changer, and it’s as close to perfection as it gets.

Their solution involves the Trajekt Arc, a pitching robot armed with precise motor control, image processing, and machine learning. This advanced technology enables the robot to deliver flawlessly consistent pitches. And that’s not all! Rapsodo’s PRO 3.0, a ground-based radar and image-based monitoring system, complements the setup by providing accurate measurements of hitting and pitching data. Plus, there’s a video projection system that lets you see life-sized footage of the player pitching right at you. It’s like you’re facing a real pitcher in a batting practice session. How cool is that?

“We are dedicated to becoming the leaders in creating baseball pitching machines that can replicate and control all the crucial aspects of a human pitcher,” says Joshua Pope, the CEO and co-founder of Trajekt. This incredible innovation is designed to enhance a player’s performance on the field, according to Seth Daniels, the director of product at Rapsodo.

A Brief History of Pitching Machines

Pitching machines have come a long way since their inception. The first-ever pitching machine was invented by Princeton professor Charles Howard “Bull” Hinton way back in 1897. Although it was dubbed the “baseball gun” and used gunpowder to launch baseballs, it was far from accurate and quite dangerous. Thankfully, technology steadily progressed from there.

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Throughout the 20th century, various pitching machines were introduced. Notably, Paul Givagnoli developed an arm-style pitching machine in 1952. This machine revolutionized practice sessions by closely imitating the throwing motion of a real pitcher’s arm. It allowed players in batting cages to train against a machine that replicated the experience of facing a human pitcher.

Pitching Machine
Image used with permission by copyright holder

For most of us, these machines that can somewhat mimic human pitching are sufficient to improve our batting average. But at the professional level, the tiniest differences can set apart the home run leaders from the rest. Elite athletes striving for an edge over their opponents need to train against a pitcher’s exact style and characteristics. That’s where the Trajekt Arc and Rapsodo’s PRO 3.0 step in.

Training Your Pitcher

“The way it works is that any tracking technology used to measure the player’s pitch can be utilized as the data source for Trajekt,” explains Joshua Pope. In many training scenarios, the pitcher throws sample pitches, which are then used to teach the device using its ball-tracking technology. Just a few sample pitches are enough for the Trajekt Arc to learn essential pitching metrics like speed, spin, movement, and strike zone location. Once this data is captured, it becomes part of the device’s system and can be accessed for future training sessions. It’s like having a personalized pitching repertoire at your disposal, right at your fingertips.

LA Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin
Image used with permission by copyright holder

But what if you want to replicate the pitch of a specific opposing player, like Tony Gonsolin from the Los Angeles Dodgers, whom you’ll be facing in an upcoming game? Asking Gonsolin for tips might not be feasible, but you’re not out of luck. Trajekt Arc can be trained using pitch-tracking data from sources like Hawk-Eye, which tracks pitches in MLB games. This enables you to create an accurate replica of how a rival pitcher performs on the field.

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“The nine-parameter fit fully defines the trajectory of the ball, the break parameters, the speed spin,” Pope explains. “As long as you have measured those release positions using any tracking system, you can use that as an upload. This data is readily available at all levels of baseball.”

A Secret Weapon

Competition is fierce in sports, both on and off the field. Teams not only compete for talented players but also for access to the best new technologies to support their athletes. Consequently, Daniels and Pope cannot disclose which MLB teams are currently utilizing their pitching tech. However, they did mention that the technology is being used by training facilities associated with seven MLB teams (and all 30 MLB teams use previous Rapsodo tech).

“We aren’t able to disclose that information,” says Pope. “I think many teams see it as a competitive advantage they want to keep under wraps. We respect that and, as a result, keep it confidential.”

Once the technology’s effectiveness is proven, you can bet your bottom dollar that it will find its way to other teams, and perhaps even beyond the MLB.

“Our flagship product is the most accurate replication of a pitcher that we’ve ever encountered with any pitching machine,” Pope proudly states. “That will always be our premium offering, with the highest value use-case being for MLB teams that can upload video data and all the pitch data they have from games to achieve premium training. However, we are also working on more portable, lighter versions that retain essential features like video projection of the pitcher’s wind-up and ball orientation control.”

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Prepare yourself! Soon, you might find revolutionary pitching technology like this in a batting cage near you. There are few better ways to enhance your game than by facing off against virtual or real MLB all-stars.

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