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Humans vs Robots: Could Robots Replace Humans in Sports?



Humans vs Robots

The sports industry has always garnered significant viewership, with millions of people worldwide tuning in or purchasing expensive tickets to witness their favorite players or teams across various sporting branches. High-profile events like the Super Bowl or the FIFA World Cup can attract hundreds of millions of viewers.

As with many industries, technology is causing significant disruptions in the sports sector. Given the global popularity of the industry, developments and news related to it are closely followed by large audiences and extensively discussed by experts and fans in media outlets. One particular topic generating a lot of discussions on social media is the role of robots in sports.

AI Robots vs. Humans

AI and robotics, among the most influential technologies globally, impact numerous sectors such as defense, marketing, healthcare and more. Within the sports industry, debates have emerged regarding the potential of AI-powered robots to compete with, or eventually surpass, human athletes.

There are instances of AI robots challenging human professionals. For example, in 2023, an AI-powered humanoid robot named CUE6 drew with NBA shooting coach Chris Matthews, also known as ‘Lethal Shooter,’ in a basketball shooting contest.

Videos showcasing robots playing football frequently circulate on social media. One video featured a CGI robot demonstrating remarkable agility and speed during soccer training, garnering over four million views. The post suggested that Boston Dynamics could soon create such capable robots. Another video depicted football star Kylian Mbappé playing football with a humanoid robot, where the robot scored an impressive goal after an assist from Mbappé.

Why Robot Athletes?

Robot athletes could be designed to surpass human limitations in terms of strength, speed, and precision. With advanced engineering and artificial intelligence, these robots could excel in physical attributes, potentially outperforming human athletes in specific disciplines. Robots are not susceptible to physical fatigue, injuries, or environmental conditions in the same way humans are. Their ability to maintain peak performance without the risk of injury could result in longer and more consistent displays of athleticism, ultimately redefining the limits of endurance in sports.

Robots can be programmed for unparalleled precision and accuracy in executing specific tasks. Whether it’s shooting a basketball, kicking a soccer ball, or throwing a pitch, robot athletes could consistently deliver actions with pinpoint precision, challenging the unpredictable nature of human performance.  The integration of robot athletes could lead to the creation of entirely new sports or innovative variations of existing ones, which we have started to begin seeing. With their unique capabilities, robots might introduce novel playing styles and strategies, offering spectators a fresh and exciting perspective on traditional sports.

Competitive Intelligence

The question of whether AI robots can perform like human athletes remains unanswered as of 2023. Fully autonomous mobile robots capable of such feats might still be some time away. GlobalData highlights significant limitations in the current generation of intelligent robots, emphasizing the need for advancements in AI aspects like computer vision, motion, and decision-making before creating more advanced industrial automation or efficient robot athletes.

Despite current limitations, there is optimism that advancements will occur in the coming years. AI startups focusing on enhancing robots’ intelligence and independence, such as Figure and Bright Machines, are attracting investment, indicating a belief in the technology’s future importance and further developments.

Potential for Robot-Only Sports

While the sports industry typically adopts new technologies cautiously, preferring proven success before heavy investment, GlobalData suggests that the focus will likely be on AI applications like computer vision (CV) and machine learning rather than the immediate integration of robot athletes into stadiums.

Questions about fan interest in robot-versus-robot sporting events compared to all-human events may also hinder the widespread use of robotic athletes. Considering these factors, it seems unlikely that machines will completely replace human athletes in the near future. However, the implementation of technology alongside traditional sports is already becoming a huge spectacle, with Machina Sports at the forefront.

A lifelong sports enthusiast with a recent interest in technology, Web3, and cryptocurrency. Every weekend you can find me watching football(soccer) and keeping up to date with stocks and crypto. Writing about the things I love and hopefully painting a picture for the reader.

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Georgia Tech’s Pilots Win Bronze at Collegiate Drone Racing Championship



Drone racing Championship

The RotorJackets from Georgia Tech were gunning for a three-peat at the Collegiate Drone Racing Championship after winning the event in 2022 and 2023. Unfortunately, they just fell short this year and had to settle for third place.
The competition was fierce at the 2024 Collegiate Drone Racing Championship, with over 60 pilots from 16 universities across the country taking part. The competition continues to grow year after year as the sport has exploded in popularity. There are now multiple pro leagues, and the top pilots are pulling six figures.

The RotorJackets Are in a Rebuilding Phase

The RotorJackets were established in 2020 and immediately had success on the drone racing scene. However, all of the original members have graduated, and the club is working overtime to recruit and train the next generation of Georgia Tech ace pilots.
The head of the RotorJackets, Ian Boraks, said he couldn’t be prouder of the team. He says the club has shown that it can successfully replace top talent and has the structure and training program in place to ensure the club can continue competing at the highest level.
The RotorJackets have some lofty goals. They want to teach others how to build, design, and fly their drones. At the same time, their racing team wants to win competitions on the international stage. We could see a professional RotorJackets squad tearing up the Drone Racing League (DRL) in the future!

The Collegiate Drone Racing Championship Was Held at Purdue University

The Collegiate Drone Racing Championship is held annually at Purdue University, where drones whizz around IM Fields at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. The first competition took place in 2017 and featured 48 pilots. The competition has grown radically over the last seven years.
The 2024 Collegiate Drone Racing Championship took place over two days from April 13 to April 14, and 64 pilots competed. The first-person view (FPV) race saw the pilots throw on their goggles and expertly navigate their drones through the different gates. The pilots showed an incredible ability to remain in control of their drones as they flew around the course at breakneck speed.
Ultimately, the 2024 Collegiate Drone Racing Championship was won by Virginia Tech. Oregon State University came second, and rounding out the top three was Georgia Tech. Oregon State came out of nowhere, 2024 was the first time the team had made it onto the podium. Nobody, including Georgia Tech, was expecting them to place so highly.
The RotorJackets have been participating since 2020, including first-place finishes in 2022 and 2023. The club continues to recruit new sponsors and members and now boasts 30 pilots. The team regularly travels to competitions throughout the East Coast.
The RotorJackets have formed a close relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration, Georgia Tech Police Department, and the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering. The team practices almost daily, flying their drones over Stamps Field. They’ve recently secured permission to host competitions on the field, which they hope will get even more people to join the RotorJackets.

Drone Racing Is the Sport of the Future

eSports went mainstream around 2018, and now it’s time for drone racing to hit the big leagues. The sport is starting to get mainstream media coverage, and social media clips are racking up millions of views. There are now numerous professional leagues, and races are being held in sold-out stadiums.
Drone racing combines humans’ love of speed with the latest technology to create a captivating next-generation sport. The RotorJackets’ president describes drone racing as 3D Formula 1 racing. Just like F-1 racing, drone racing is lightning-quick, with drones exceeding 100 miles per hour, and features high-speed braking and G-forces.
This innovative motorsport is packed with non-stop action, and there’s never a dull moment. Also, unlike other racing sports, drone racing is far more accessible. You can purchase a drone and goggles for a few hundred bucks and, within a couple of months, be participating in competitions.
The RotorJackets are training hard and have their eyes firmly on regaining their Collegiate Drone Racing Championship title. The team is planning on bringing a stacked squad to the 2025 Championship. They’ll have to be at their best if they’re going to take out the in-form Virginia Tech!
Read more: Robot Dogs, Drones, and Racing Cars Reign Supreme Inside D-ITET Centre

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Robot Dogs, Drones, and Racing Cars Reign Supreme Inside D-ITET Centre



D-ITET Centre Zurich Robot Hub

Even though the picturesque Swiss city may be more known for banking, the students at ETH Zurich are trying to change that. At the D-ITET Centre for Project-based Learning, scientists are working on cutting-edge autonomous robots that are going to play an important role in our lives in the future.

What Is the D-ITET Centre for Project-Based Learning?

The D-ITET Centre is a part of ETH Zurich, the top technical university in Switzerland, and was recently ranked 7th in the world for data science and artificial intelligence. The goal of the center is to allow students to work on practical projects focusing on energy-efficient smart sensors, embedded systems, and autonomous robots.

The D-ITET Centre was established in 2020 and is led by Dr. Michele Magno. The center is specifically interested in things that will have real-world applications. They envision creating autonomous robots that can do everything from performing household chores to search and rescue.

What Projects are the D-ITET Centre for Project-Based Learning Working On?

One of the D-ITET Centre’s flagship projects is a four-legged autonomous robot, which they hope will help people with disabilities and medical conditions. Within a few years, you might see this bot helping blind people cross the road, delivering medicine, or greeting guests.

This incredible robot is fully autonomous and uses a lidar sensor and a depth camera to map its surroundings and determine its location. Then, based on this map, it can determine the ideal path to take to reach a certain object. In real-time, the robot can identify people and other moving objects via dynamic tracking and alter its path, so you won’t have to worry about a clumsy robot ramming into your knees!

The robot shows immense control and the ability to interact with its surroundings in a natural way. It also has its own arm, which is perfect for picking up, carrying, and delivering things. You no longer have to train your dog to pick up your morning newspaper. This ETH Zurich four-legged bot is up for the challenge.

ETH Zurich is Working on a New Drone Sport

The students at ETH Zurich are busy building four-wheeled drones that can race around the track at up to 50 miles per hour. However, you won’t find any drivers in these AI-powered vehicles. These drones are completely autonomous and are loaded with sensors, allowing them to navigate courses that even Formula One drivers would balk at.

The D-ITET Centre believes that autonomous drone racing is a sport of the future where teams build custom drones and software and then deploy them on different tracks. The robots produced by the team at ETH Zurich are already showing impressive driving skills. They can anticipate corners like a pro and know exactly when to accelerate and break. However, occasionally, they behave erratically and launch themselves into walls!

The D-ITET Centre is Betting on Nano Drones

The D-ITET Centre is working on completely autonomous tiny drones that weigh as little as 27 grams. Thanks to the open-sourced software provided by ETH Zurich, the university allows you to design, build, and test your very own nano drone.

These drones feature specially designed weight-optimized hardware, novel sensors, real-time perception, and ML models. These drones can fly everywhere without impacting people and have potential serious commercial value.

Nano drones are a game changer for environment monitoring and security and are even being deployed on the battlefield in Ukraine for reconnaissance. Nano drones are much harder to spot than traditional drones. This makes them ideal for covert data collection, where detection could cause the mission to be compromised or even expose personnel to danger.

Nano drones are an ideal way to safely inspect landscape changes, keep an eye on animals, and monitor ecosystems without disturbing the environment. These drones are also being used by farmers to check on their crops, soil quality, and pest infestations.

Thanks to the smart students at ETH Zurich, Switzerland is positioning itself for the upcoming robot revolution. Over the last decade, the small, landlocked country has become a leader in autonomous robotics, sensors, and artificial intelligence. This trend is likely to continue as Switzerland attracts global talent and combines it with its long history of high-precision engineering.

Read more: The S1 Robot Is Strong and Fast!

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McKinsey’s Virtual Sailor Proves to Be Team New Zealand’s Secret Weapon



America’s Cup in sailing

Emirates Team New Zealand managed to win the 2021 America’s Cup thanks to a little help from AI. The McKinsey-designed bot proved decisive in Team New Zealand besting Luna Rossa from Italy 7-3. 

McKinsey developed a special AI bot for Team New Zealand that helped the team come up with an optimal design for their hydrofoil and also reveal ideal sailing paths. Typically, sailors have to spend hours in a simulator, which eats into their training time out on the water. McKinsey solved this problem by developing a self-learning artificial intelligence solution that could sail in the simulator by itself without humans being present.

Team New Zealand already has the world’s most powerful sailing simulator, so when it teamed up with the AI bot, it was a match made in heaven. The bot was able to get the team incredibly accurate and helpful data, which allowed them to build a futuristic-looking hydrofoil capable of travelling up to 63 miles per hour.

AI Bot Removes Human Element From Hydrofoil Design Testing Process

For Team New Zealand to properly test out new hydrofoil designs in the simulator, four of the crew need to be working together. The crew has to do a number of runs to get an idea of how effective the hydrofoil design is. The goal of the AI bot was to get the sailors out of the simulator process and allow them to focus on being out on the water.

Amazingly, it didn’t take long for the AI bot to outperform the professional sailors on the simulator. The bot would often take unconventional lines, but they later turned out to be correct. Impressively, McKinsey’s sailor outperforms professionals in virtually all wind ranges.

It’s also able to make decisions much quicker than human sailors, with no inconsistency in its performances. Run after run, it completes faster times than pro-human sailors.

Reinforcement Learning is Key to Bot’s Sailing Prowess

The purpose of the bot was to test out different boat designs on the simulator. Then, the team would select the best boat based on the bot’s performance sailing it. However, the team could only rely on the bot’s recommendations if it could outsail the human sailors.

Taking a bot with no knowledge and quickly turning it into a world-class sailor is no easy feat. However, thanks to reinforcement learning, it’s possible to fit thousands of years worth of effective practice into a short amount of time. 

Reinforcement learning works in the same way you would teach someone to do anything and is basically trial and error. You praise and reward them for good behavior and  criticize negative behavior. Over time, the bot starts understanding what is good and what is bad and starts focusing on actions that it was previously rewarded for.  

The bot started by getting a hang of the absolute basics of sailing. It finished focused on just sailing in a straight line with zero wind. Once it had mastered basic movements, more complexity was added. 

The sailing problem the team was trying to solve had a game-tree complexity of nearly 2900, which is too much even for an AI-powered bot to handle. So, their solution was to deploy a whole team of bots that were constantly learning from each other.

It took just eight weeks for the AI bot to master sailing and start outperforming humans on the simulator. It was able to race 24/7 and lock in consistent results, making it the ultimate test dummy for new hydrofoil designs. Incredibly, the bot started teaching the sailors, providing tips on how to handle different wind speeds, directions, and waves.

The combination of the state-of-the-art simulator with the master sailing bot sped up Team New Zealand’s design process by a whopping 10 times. Also, it allowed the crew to almost completely bypass the simulator and spend their time more effectively sailing the real world.

Team Italy Stood No Chance 

The 2021 America’s Cup wasn’t even close. Team New Zealand absolutely dominated, winning 7-3. Team Italy even said that they felt like they brought a knife to a gunfight. The AI bot helped Team New Zealand come up with a superior hydrofoil design, which proved much faster than the Italian’s boat.

Read more: Humans vs Robots: Could Robots Replace Humans in Sports?

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