From robot soccer to speedgate, these sports of the future already exist

Thanks to artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological innovations, new high-tech sports are starting all over the world. From robots taking to the field to play soccer, to pilot-controlled drones racing against each other like humans, machines prove their own competitive nature.

AI can now even create new sports, from the strategy and rules of the game to the layout of the playing field.

These high-tech sports may sound like they’re from the future, but they already exist. Here are some of the most groundbreaking.

In drone soccer, teams of three to five pilots score points by flying their “striker” drone through their opponent’s target, while the opponent’s drones try to block them. It features three intense three-minute gameplay sets in which players must weigh how aggressively they fly with the risk of damage to the drone.

The sport has its roots in South Korea and the first US drone football tournament took place at the Rocky Mountain State Games in Colorado last July. Leagues are launching in Colorado, New York, Ohio and elsewhere, and US Drone Soccer is introducing the sport to high schools, where it will be paired with an educational program that will teach students how to build, program, and repair drones.
US Drone Soccer is also supporting the African Drone Soccer Challenge for teams of young players, led by girls – which will take place on January 29 in Lagos, Nigeria.

robot soccer

The Robot World Cup Initiative – “RoboCup” for short – is a soccer competition for autonomous robots. It has several leagues, in which robots of different sizes have to make independent decisions while communicating effectively with their teammates.

The competition is also an international scientific project. For example, in the RoboCup Humanoid League, researchers investigate robotics challenges such as dynamic walking and running, kicking the ball while maintaining balance, visual perception of the ball, and teamwork.
Robots have come a long way since the first RoboCup in 1997, which saw 40 teams compete and 5,000 spectators attended, but robots struggled to find and move the ball, according to the organization’s website. RoboCup 2021 consisted of more than 300 teams and now robots can “reliably find a ball, move very quickly and exhibit teamwork behavior”.

The ultimate goal of RoboCup is that by 2050, “a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players will win a soccer match, in accordance with FIFA’s official rules, against the winner of the most recent World Cup.”

Drone racing

Drone Racing League pilots fly in first person view during the DRL Vegas Championship Race, January 2022.

In first-person drone racing, pilots guide drones through complex racetracks while wearing goggles that stream live video from the drone’s camera so that the pilots feel like they are flying in it.

Elite pilots participate in the global professional Drone Racing League (DRL), broadcast by major networks, with its custom-built racing drones traveling at speeds of 90 miles (145 kilometers) per hour.

Drone racing is thought to have started in Australia around 2010, when pilots would attach cameras to their drones and race them through parks and backyards, according to DRL CEO and founder Nicholas Horbaczewski. DRL has since helped bring the sport into the mainstream. Six years after the competition’s official launch in 2016, the sport now has 75 million active fans worldwide, Horbaczewski says.

speed gate

Speedgate -- invented by computers, played by humans.
Speedgate does not require advanced technology but it is a game made by artificial intelligence. The sport combines aspects of croquet, rugby and football, with a playing field made up of three enclosed circles arranged in a line. Over three seven-minute periods, two teams of six pass a ball around, either throwing or kicking it below the waist, aiming to kick the ball through the end fence to score.

According to AKQA, the design firm behind Speedgate, “deep learning algorithms” were used to create ideas for every aspect of the game, from the gameplay and rules to the logo. The team trained a neural network using rules from about 400 sports. More than 1,000 results were produced – some were “downright dangerous,” according to AKQA, such as an exploding disc relay in which disc-like objects that explode on impact are thrown at the players. Others were just “hilariously implausible,” such as “hot air balloon string racket” in which a team is suspended by a string between two hot air balloons and hits an object with rackets.

Speedgate has been officially recognized by the Oregon Sports Authority and is now growing into a U.S. college league, AKQA says.

Segway polo

Captain Nevin Roach (in blue) on offense for Team Barbados during the 2019 Segway Polo World Championships, Sweden.

Segway polo is a team sport in which players on two-wheeled, self-balancing electric vehicles attempt to score by hitting a ball along the goal line with their mallet.

The sport originated in the US and is now played in Germany, Sweden, UK, Barbados, Spain, Lebanon and other countries. The Segway Polo World Championship — dubbed the “Woz Challenge Cup” after Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder and Segway polo player — was founded in 2006. The Segway Polo Club of Barbados (SPCB) is the most successful team in the history of the sport, having won the World Championship five times – the last was in 2019.


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