Could AI robot developed by Kent school children be the end of Wimbledon ball boys and girls?

  • Watch Sarah Saunders report on the AI robot 'ball boy' created by Kent school children

As Wimbledon fever grips the nation, school children in Kent have unveiled an innovation which could be a game changer for the sport of tennis.

Year 12 students at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Faversham have built a robot to find and collect tennis balls.

Jacob Benyon, Daniyal Madina and Owen Lovell who built the prototype in the student-led robotics and engineering society, say one day it could replace the need for ball boys and girls in the sport.

The robot uses a small Raspberry Pi processor to scan and interpret the images from a camera on board the robot.

  • Watch the robot in action as it uses artificial intelligence programming to locate tennis balls

Co-creator Jacob Benyon says the actual robot is still very basic, explaining: "We have some stolen parts from our science society as well as a Fererro Rocher chocolate box, some cheap wheels and some very long cables that aren't quite necessary.

"There is a lot going on with AI right now and we really wanted to make something physical, something you could actually see and understand it's thought process a little bit".

Daniel Madina described how the robot uses artificial intelligence to make sure the robot tracks tennis balls - not Djokovic's shoes for example.

He said: "There's a machine leaning algorithm, we feed it loads of pictures of tennis balls and it learns what a tennis ball looks like, the colour shape, and we also feed it pictures of what a tennis ball isn't, like an apple."

The AI tracking technology could be used to track anything and the young team think it could have useful applications such as collecting litter or be used as a tracking device in an area you wouldn't want to send people.

  • Co-creator Owen Lovell explains other potential uses for the technology

The Robot was showcased at The Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) London Conference this week (June 27) where leading scientists joined hundreds of students to see and discuss their latest innovations and research.

Dr Jo Foster, IRIS Director said: "This exciting project using AI and Robotics could be the future for Wimbledon ball boys and girls. It would certainly have the commentators saying 'Oh I say'!  

"It's always both fascinating and inspiring to see what the next generation of innovators are coming up with and many more exciting innovations have been unveiled at this year's IRIS conferences in London, Manchester and Exeter. All the ideas and research hopefully lead to future careers in science for many of the teams involved."