(CNN) — From the metaverse to non-fungible tokens (NFTs), new technology is endlessly changing the way we live our lives. And one of the biggest stages where it takes place is sport.
Thanks to artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological innovations, new high-tech sports are taking their first steps around the world. From robots taking to the field to play soccer to pilot-controlled drones competing with each other, just like humans, the machines are proving to have their own competitive streak.
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. These are some of the most innovative.
Sports and technology in one: this is football with drones
In drone soccer, teams of between three and five pilots score points by flying their “forward” drone through their opponent’s goal, while the opposition’s drones attempt 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 has its origins 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 are launching in Colorado, New York, Ohio and elsewhere, and US Drone Soccer is introducing the sport to high schools, where it will be combined with an educational program in which students learn how to build, program and repair drones.
US Drone Soccer will also support the African Drone Soccer Challenge for teams of young players, led by girls, 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, in which 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 drive robotics challenges such as dynamic walking and running, kicking the ball while maintaining balance, visual perception of the ball, and teamwork.
The robots have come a long way since the first RoboCup in 1997, where 40 teams participated and 5,000 spectators attended, but the robots had difficulty finding the ball and moving, according to the organization’s website. Robo Cup 2021 featured more than 300 teams, and now, the robots can “reliably find a ball, move very quickly, and begin to exhibit teamwork behaviors.”
RoboCup’s ultimate goal is that by 2050, “a team of fully autonomous humanoid robotic soccer players will win a soccer match, adhering to official FIFA rules, against the most recent World Cup winner.”
In first-person view drone racing, pilots steer drones through complex race tracks while wearing goggles that stream live video from the drone’s camera, so pilots feel like they’re flying inside of them.
Elite pilots participate in the World Professional Drone Racing League (DRL), which has been televised by major networks, with their custom 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 raced 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 says.
Speedgate It does not require advanced technology to play, but it is a game created by artificial intelligence. The sport combines aspects of croquet, rugby and football, with a 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 objective of kicking the ball through the final gate to score.
“Deep learning algorithms” were used to come up with ideas for every aspect of the game, from the gameplay and rules to the logo, according to AKQA, the design agency behind Speedgate. The team trained a neural network using rules from about 400 sports. Over 1,000 results were produced, some were “downright dangerous”, according to AKQA, such as an exploding disc relay in which disc-like objects are thrown at players that explode on impact. Others were simply “hilariously implausible”, such as “hot air balloon tightrope racket” in which a team is suspended on a tightrope between two hot air balloons, hitting an object with rackets.
Speedgate has been officially recognized by the Oregon Sports Authority and is now becoming a college league across the United States, says AKQA.
Segway polo is a team sport in which players in two-wheeled self-balancing electric vehicles attempt to score by hitting a ball over the finish line with their mallet.
Originating in the US, the sport is now played in Germany, Sweden, the UK, Barbados, Spain, Lebanon, and other countries. The Segway Polo World Championship, named the “Woz Challenge Cup” after Apple co-founder and Segway polo player Steve Wozniak, was established 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.