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 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 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.”
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.
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 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.