Could Robotics Be The Future Of Sports?


It was inevitable. Now we are at the beginning of a revolution. Robots are taking over sports!

Don’t believe me? Look at some of the sports we already have. Formula One cars are so advanced, they could very well qualify as piloted robots. Amputees are now able to take part in sports with the help of prosthetics which are becoming increasingly cybernetic. How long until the Paralympics consists of super-powered cyborgs?

Still not impressed? Well, it doesn’t stop there!


Remote Controlled racing is nothing new. But now it goes far beyond RC cars. From Los Angeles to Melbourne, robotics hobbyists are organizing races with homemade aerial drones. They carry cameras that allow the pilot to fly the vehicles through a first-person perspective. Races are held in various places like parks, in the woods, in warehouses, and in parking garages. The result is not too much unlike pod racing in Star Wars Episode I, except that the pilots aren’t on the vehicles themselves. But at least the crashes aren’t as life-threatening. Yes, I know that’s all part of the fun. But so is watching robots flying at high speed … and crashing!


Then there is the F.I.R.S.T. Championship. F.I.R.S.T. stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”. In other words, robot challenges! Kids of various ages build robots in teams, usually school-sponsored teams, and compete in various challenges. You know what that means? Future generations of robotics engineers! And if that wasn’t enough …


Every year, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the same people responsible for DARPAnet (which later spawned the Internet), has a robotics challenge for companies, universities, and well-financed groups to execute a series of challenges. Each time, the challenges are based on a military or homeland security theme. The challenges are exceptionally difficult, but the payoff is great. Granted it’s not as much of a payout to make up for the cost of development. But it leads to more advanced technology the companies can utilize later. And it often provides spills that make for great entertainment.


While not entirely new, BattleBots is experiencing a resurgence with its addition to the ABC television lineup. There used to be two shows. Robot Wars started in the USA, but ended up moving to Great Britain. BattleBots was originally on a comedy network before cancellation. But now that it’s back, it reinforces a trend toward technology-based competition. And there’s nothing quite like watching homemade robots destroying each other! Now that’s good old family entertainment!


In case you’ve been living under a rock, let me get you up to speed. A Japanese company built a giant, walking mechanized armor suit called Kuratas. Built over the course of two years by a team led by a blacksmith/steelworker, it’s much like the mech suits in a lot of anime and sci-fi. Then just recently, a couple of guys in America built their own armor. They challenged the Japanese group to a big robot battle.

Less than a week ago, the Japanese accepted.

The battle is slated to take place in 2016. One can only imagine that this is the beginning of an onslaught of similar robots to take to glorious battle in the near future. It’s sort of like a Warhammer 40k in an arena! I’m excited for this one! And I can only hope that the arena they hold this battle in will be called Gundam Downs. How long until there’s a league? After all, Formula One cars crash all the time, and each car costs more than both of these robots combined!


As much as I like human-centered sports in general, I love the idea of cybersports. That applies whether it’s human powered or artificial intelligence like what was seen on the screens in the bar on Coruscant in Star Wars Episode II. And frankly, I think it’s just about freakin’ time!

Now who’s up for a good mecha battle?


Daniel C. Handley

Dan Handley was raised a Trekkie, fell in love with "Star Wars" at an early age, and became obsessed with comic book superheroes. He spent his youth dreaming of how to get real superpowers, starships, and so on.

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