Are robots taking over sports?

Arianne van de Loosdrecht

Last week, I competed in one of the largest ocean races in the world, from Sydney to Hobart, Tasmania. You would say that you are purely one with nature. But nothing is less true. Here too, AI has made its appearance and the computer determines a large part of the game.

On board we have navigation software that determines our route. Nowadays, the navigator sits at his computer, retrieves weather and environmental data in the middle of the sea and looks at the route the software has devised. The paper cards are safely stored. It is actually a pity, but at the same time As an athlete I know that you want to improve continuously. And robots do some things better than humans. Pushing the boundaries of what is technologically permitted is nowadays certainly part of sports.

Your coach on your wrist

The robot that has the most influence on me, and I think on the largest group of people, is the smartwatch. A coach is no longer necessary. My smartwatch not only tells me what my heart rate is and how many steps I've walked, it also tells me what the recommended rest time is after a run and how many calories I've burned. I think that is one of the better developments. My real coach no longer has to spend time on this and can focus on things that my smartwatch cannot (yet) do, such as checking my posture while deadlifting.

Sports or games?

Is playing video games a sport? E-sports are increasingly seen this way and are growing fast. Very fast. The platform to view these e-sports (Twitch) is currently larger than YouTube. Gamers have millions of paying followers. At the Fortnite World Cup there was a total prize money of no less than $ 30 million. I don't see myself practicing an e-sport that quickly, but I find it very cool to see so many people enthusiastic about 'their sport'.

Sport is emotion!

There are already completely robotized sports events. At the RoboCup, a number of leading universities compete against each other during a football event every year. The football players are robots. In the video you can see how such an event goes. The robots will probably not win the E's yet and it does not look very smooth, but the RoboCup is a good development to promote robot research. As a real sport it is only (still) less interesting.

Robocup 2019

Technology already plays an important and interesting role in sport, but in the end sport is still about entertainment, about emotion; the tears in the eyes of Dafne Schippers because of her injury at the World Cup, the whole of the Netherlands that is stressed out while Ajax is eliminated in the last minute of the semi-finals in the Champions League. That is sport for me.

Arianne van de Loosdrecht is an analyst at ftrprf and wrote this article for the theme Robotization

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