(CNN) — From metaverses to non-fungible tokens (NFT), new technologies are relentlessly changing the way we live our lives. And one of the biggest stages where that happens is sport.
Thanks to artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological innovations, new high-tech sports are taking their first steps worldwide. From robots that take to the field to play soccer to pilot-controlled drones that compete with each other, just like humans, machines are proving to have a competitive edge.
AI can now even create new sports, from strategies 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 are. These are some of the most innovative.
Sport and technology in one: this is football with drones
In drone football, teams of three to five pilots score points by flying their “forward” drone through the opponent’s goal, while the opposing drone attempts to block them. It features three sets of intense three-minute gameplay in which players must weigh how aggressively they fly against the risk of damaging the drone.
The sport originated in South Korea and the first US drone soccer tournament was held in July last year at the Rocky Mountain State Games in Colorado. Leagues launched in Colorado, New York, Ohio and elsewhere, and US Drone Soccer introduced the sport to high schools, where it would be combined with educational programs where students learned how to build, program, and repair drones.
US Drone Soccer will also support the Africa Drone Soccer Challenge for a team of youth players, led by women, which will take place on January 29 in Lagos, Nigeria.
The Robot World Cup Initiative, “RoboCup” for short, is a soccer competition for autonomous robots. It has various leagues, where robots of different sizes must make independent decisions while communicating effectively with their teammates.
The contest doubles as an international scientific project. In RoboCup Humanoid LeagueFor example, researchers encourage robotics challenges such as dynamic walking and running, kicking a ball while maintaining balance, visual perception of the ball, and teamwork.
Robots have come a long way since the first RoboCup in 1997, where 40 teams participated and 5,000 spectators attended, but the robots have had a hard time finding the ball and moving, according to the organization’s website. RoboCup 2021 featuring more than 300 teams, and now, robots can “reliably find the ball, move very quickly, and start exhibiting teamwork behavior.”
RoboCup’s ultimate goal is that by 2050, “a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players will win a football match, in compliance with official FIFA regulations, against the latest World Cup winner.”
In first-person drone racing, the pilot steers the drone through a complex race track while wearing goggles that stream live video from the drone’s camera, so the pilot feels like he’s flying inside.
Elite pilots participate in the World Professional Drone Racing League (DRL), which has been televised by major networks, with their special racing drones traveling at 90 miles (145 kilometers) per hour.
Drone racing is believed to have started in Australia around 2010, when pilots attached cameras to their drones and rode them through parks and backyards, according to DRL CEO and founder Nicholas Horbaczewski. Since then, DRL has helped bring the sport into the mainstream. Six years after the league’s official launch in 2016, the sport now has 75 million active fans worldwide, Horbaczewski said.
Speedgate It does not require advanced technology to play, but it is a game created by artificial intelligence. The sport combines aspects of helipad, rugby and football, with the playing field consisting of three closed circles arranged in a line. In three seven-minute periods, two teams of six pass the ball to each other, either throwing it below the waist or kicking it, with the goal of kicking the ball through the last gate to score.
“Deep learning algorithms” are used to generate ideas for every aspect of the game, from gameplay and rules to logos, according to AKQA, the design agency behind Speedgate. The team trained the neural network using rules from about 400 sports. More than 1,000 results were generated, some of them “really dangerous”, according to AKQA, such as an exploding disc relay in which disc-like objects are thrown at the player exploding on impact. Others are simply “absolutely nonsensical”, such as the “hot air balloon string racket” in which a team is suspended from a rope between two hot air balloons, hitting objects with rackets.
Speedgate has been officially recognized by the Oregon Sports Authority and is now a collegiate league across the United States, AKQA said.
Segway polo is a team sport in which players in self-balancing electric two-wheelers try to score goals by hitting the ball across the finish line with their hammers.
Originating in the US, the sport is now played in Germany, Sweden, England, Barbados, Spain, Lebanon and other countries. The Segway Polo World Championship, named the “Woz Challenge Cup” after Apple founder and Segway polo player Steve Wozniak, 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, most recently in 2019.
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