Drones

World Future Sports Games to include manned drone racing and robot swimming

Dean Evans Technology Writer Twitter

Buoyed by the success of the World Drone Prix (won by 15-year-old Brit Luke Bannister), Dubai has announced its intention to hold the World Future Sports Games in 2017.

What are the World Future Sports Games I hear you ask? According to the newly created World Federation of Future Sports, the competition will be “the first initiative of its kind in the world featuring innovation and futuristic technology based sports competitions.”

The games will be held over three days, once every two years, and will be open to individuals, companies, academic institutions and research centres from around the world

Think of it as a tech Olympics, a global gathering featuring nine different engineering competitions. These will include: driverless car racing, robotic soccer, robotic running competitions, manned drone racing, robotic swimming, robotic table tennis, robotic wrestling, drone races and a cybathlon competition.

Driverless car racing is self-explanatory and Formula E has announced a global race series for driverless electric cars called ROBORACE. Elsewhere, robotic soccer is already well established — the RoboCup (Robot Soccer World Cup) has been held every year since 1997.

Robo football is a valuable technology exercise. The ‘humanoid’ category, for example, not only tests a robot’s ability to walk, run and kick a ball while maintaining its balance, but challenges visual perception, cooperation and autonomous positioning.

Robotic running, meanwhile, requires balance, perception and raw speed (something Boston Dynamics’ robots already seem to have mastered). Manned drone racing isn’t so far-fetched either. Here on IQ we’ve already covered the extraordinary Ehang 184, the Star Wars-style MA Hoverbike and the impressive-looking Flike manned tricopter concept. Just imagine these machines tearing around a race track.

Robots can already swim too. We’ve seen autonomous swim-bots inspired by fish and sea turtles, while the Pleurobot is designed to move and swim like a Salamander. Assuming propellers are banned at the World Future Sports Games, races will undoubtedly be won by the most effective mechanical flippers, legs or fins.

As for ping pong-playing robots, look no further than the video below:

So that’s six future sporting categories down, three to go. We’ll skip over drone races — the World Drone Prix and the Drone Racing League prove that staging this isn’t much of a stretch.

But robotic wrestling? MIT Technology Review sums up the challenge as: “two mechanical agents coupled via mechanical actions such as contact and collision. The aim of the contest is for one agent to floor the other while maintaining its own balance. The rest is just show business.”

Again, there’s already a precedent for this robo-sport. In fact, hobbyists in Japan recently held the 28th Robo-One wrestling tournament, which attracted 120 robotic competitors. You can get a flavour of the event by watching the oddball battle between Gargoyle KID and Kikyo below:

All of which leaves the ‘cybathlon’ category. While the World Federation of Future Sports doesn’t elaborate on what this entails, perhaps we can take some cues from Cybathlon 2016, a bionic event in Switzerland where “cutting edge robotic assistive technologies will help people with disabilities to compete in a series of races.”

Taking place in October, the Cybathlon 2016 races will include powered exoskeleton, powered leg prosthesis and powered wheelchair races, plus brain-controlled computer gaming events. If the World Future Sports Games can take the best of all these events (and add some more), then it could be quite the technology spectacle.

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