When they’re not making DIY devices to measure bong hits or suing the US government over climate change, bored teens may also be found studying fluid dynamics and angular momentum—a pastime better known as “bottle flipping.”
Bottle flipping—tossing a water bottle so that it spins and lands upright—became an international phenomenon after a video of a high schooler flipping water bottles at a talent show went viral in 2016. Not only did the artform get banned at some schools for being a nuisance, but it also attracted the attention of scientists who were interested in the complex physics behind bottle flipping.
Last week, student competitors at Japan’s RoboCon, a national high school robotics contest, brought bottle flipping into the future with a suite of homemade robots that have mastered the art of tossing water bottles.
Considering that the robots were made by teams whose members are between 15 and 20 years old, the precision of these water bottle flipping robots is mind boggling. Some of them manage to bounce the bottles off the table at precise angles so that the bottle lands right side up, while others flip multiple bottles to produce a wild aerial show. Perhaps the most impressive, however, is the bottle bot that manages to fling a water bottle across the stage and bounce it off of a trampoline and onto a high table.
We knew robots would come for all our jobs eventually, but I don’t think anyone expected them to dominate meatbags in bottle flipping so soon.