Quick introduction from Tom Lodziak…
I really love my Robo-Pong 2050 table tennis robot. It has helped me improve many areas of my game. But it has a major limitation. It can only produce one spin at a time. This means I can do drills with only topspins balls or drills with only backspin balls. I can’t do drills which include both backspin and topspin balls in the same rally.
But there are robots which can mix spins. One highly regarded robot is the Butterfly Amicus Professional. I have not used this robot myself, but I know a man who has!
If you are thinking about investing in a top range table tennis robot, have a read of the following review of the Butterfly Amicus Professional.
The review is by Roger Hance, a table tennis player from Colchester. He is also a professional photographer and takes photos at major table tennis competitions in the UK. Here’s a link to Roger’s table tennis photography website: http://tabletennisphotographybyrogerhance.blogspot.co.uk
Butterfly Amicus Professional Review
By Roger Hance
When I first started playing table tennis, I bought the basic Practice Partner 100. A good entry level robot which is not that expensive. Like a lot of robots, it has only one wheel in the head. You have to physically turn the head for it to change from topspin to backspin. Also, having just one wheel, you cannot vary the amount of topspin or backspin on the ball. It tends to give very heavy topspin or very heavy backspin (an almost unnatural amount).
I wanted a robot which was able to replicate more realistic spins and sequences of balls. It took a while to decide on which robot to buy. I went on table tennis forums and decided in the end that the Butterfly Amicus Professional was the one that would do virtually everything I wanted.
I have had the robot for a few months now. I will give you a ‘for’ and ‘against’ appraisal.
Combinations of spins
The big advantage with the Butterfly Amicus Professional is that it will do any combination of topspin, backspin, sidespin or float balls in the same drill. So you can set it up to do a short backspin serve (to any position that you decide), then you can either banana flick or forehand flick, and then have the robot set to go straight into a topspin rally, which can be programmed to up to 7 different locations or positions.
You can set each individual ball to give either very light spin, float, or heavy spin in the same rally. It will give either short or long balls, depending on which position/location on the table you set it to. It will also give sidespin balls in the same rally, if needed. Each of the eight balls can be programmed individually.
Random ball placement
The Butterfly Amicus Professional has two different random modes.
‘rnd’ – This will give you balls randomly inside a 20cm circle. The one problem with cheaper robots is that if you want to practice forehand topspin for example, they will give the ball to almost the exact same spot every time. Thus you know where it’s going to be landing, you can get into a ‘groove’, and you do not have to move position forward/backward, or side to side. You do not get this in a game. Sometimes the ball may come shorter, longer, more wide, or more into you ‘body area’. When the robot is set on ‘rnd’, it will randomly give balls within a 20cm circle, so you have to adjust to each ball by moving your feet.
‘RND’ – This mode will give you balls randomly on the sequence that you have set. So let’s say you set the following sequence:
- ball 1 – middle
- ball 2 – long to the backhand
- ball 3 – short forehand
- ball 4 – long to the backhand
- ball 5 – short to the middle
- ball 6 – long to the backhand
- ball 7 – long to the forehand
- ball 8 – short to the forehand
This sequence gives you quite a good variety of different lengths and positions of balls. But after having done this sequence for a short time, you begin to recognise and get used to the order of which ball is coming next in the sequence. Set the robot on ‘RND’, and it will give the balls you have set in the drill, but in a completely random sequence.
Third ball attack
This variation is great. When practicing serves, you often have a box of balls, and just serve, one after the other. Really, serving and the third ball attack should ideally be practiced as a continuous action. You can do that with this robot.
You can set the speed of the robot to very slow so that you can serve a ball, and then have a backspin ball come back to you to practice you third ball loop.
You can set the third ball to come back to either roughly the same position (rnd). Or, if you programme in a sequence of backspin balls to come to different positions and lengths on the table, and then press ‘RND’, you get the third ball completely randomly, which gives a more realistic type of return that you would get in a match.
Realistic Multiball Drills
If you watch the top Chinese players doing multiball, they will often start the rally with a short backspin ball for them to banana flick, and then go into a fast backhand/forehand topspin multiball rally. You can do this on this robot up to 8 shots.
You can also set it to do a short backspin serve that you can push return, then give a long backspin ball deep to either backhand or forehand for you to loop, followed by six alternate backhand/forehand topspins.
You can actually set the robot to give a short pause in between an 8 ball drill. This gives you a few seconds delay so you can go back to your serve receive position, before starting the drill starts again.
There are a number of pre-programmed drills in the robot, but I personally prefer to use my own drills. When you set up a drill you like, you can save it into the memory. You can also set the speed it delivers balls as fast or as slow as you want.
Because you can set up balls either short or long, with straight backspin or with sidespin, you can practice return of serve quite well. It’s not as good as practicing returning serve with a real partner, but it’s the best robot for doing this at present if you don’t have anybody.
I personally have found it very helpful for returning long Tomhawk types of serves. Setting the robot to give a long backspin/sidespin ball, it has definitely helped me with returning this serve, which previously sent me into a state of near ‘panic’, every time someone used it against me.
The instruction manual is poor to say the least. Not particularly easy to understand. Considering how much the robot cost, you would have thought that for the price, they would included an instructional CD or DVD, showing how to set it all up, and programme it to do the different drills. I learnt more about how to use it by trying out a friends Butterfly Amicus Advance, rather than the actual manual.
As you can see, I am quite impressed with the Butterfly Amicus Professional. I have written a lot more in the FOR section, compared to the AGAINST section.
The robot was a lot of money, but I am retired now, the kids have left home, so I may as well spend it while I am healthy and can still get some benefit from it. After all, I can’t take the money with me when I go to the pearly gates!
Improvements to my game
I feel that the Butterfly Amicus Professional has improved my game overall, particularly for opening up attacks against backspin balls.
It has definitely helped my footwork movement, as well as transitioning between different shots, and types of ball. The fact that you can programme it to do individual balls in a sequence is its biggest plus.
For example, today I had a session with my coach. She was working on my backhand loop against backspin. Normally, I think that my backhand is actually stronger than my forehand. In a game, I can open up and also do a reasonable third ball attack with my backhand . Where I fall down is that I once I start to miss a few backhands, I lose confidence, and my backhand loop goes into hiding for the rest of the game!
The problem she tells me is that I am not changing my backhand loop between heavy backspin balls, and lighter backspin balls. She was doing multi-ball and varying the balls between light and heavy backspin, and I was having to change my shot depending on the spin of each ball.
With the Butterfly Amicus Professional, I can now work on this drill and set it to give me three heavy backspin balls to my backhand, followed by a couple of lighter backspin balls. Therefore, I have to learnt to adjust the shot depending on the degree of backspin on the ball.
The Butterfly Amicus Professional really is an amazing piece of kit, but then again for the money, it should be.
I would recommend the robot to others. They do three versions, Basic, Advanced and Professional, and obviously the cost goes up depending on which one you choose.
You do not have to be a professional or even a high level league player to use the Professional, you just have to have deep pockets to shell out the cash!
Here’s a couple of videos of the Butterfly Amicus Robots in action:
This one shows Michael Maze using it:
This one is by Aerobic Table Tennis:
You can buy the Butterfly Amicus Professional from the following retailers:
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