There was a time when the only AI in sport was Allen Iverson but, much like the Philadelphia 76ers man’s NBA career, those days are long behind us. Instead, AI, as in artificial intelligence, is making its presence felt as much in the world of sport as it is in the rest of our lives. Many sports bodies are exploring what AI and machine learning can do for their game, while there is no shortage of tech companies offering up solutions across areas ranging from scouting and analytics to wearable technology, or from the broadcast experience of the fans watching at home to the matchday experience of those in the stadium. While tracking player and ball movement seems obvious, or the Noahlytics shot arc analysis programme for basketball offers a chance to gain a competitive advantage, there are now solutions to things that no one was aware needed to be improved. Take the reporting of Minor League Baseball. The MiLB now uses natural language generating programme Wordsmith to turn stats and data into match reports that readers would not know were written by a machine. This is Speedgate from AKQA on Vimeo . In golf, the PGA Tour has a number of AI measures in place including its Content Relevancy Engine to assist broadcasters. The CRE is there “to provide real-time statistical trends and storylines relevant to the current action”. Or it does what people used to do manually but a lot faster and without the risk of any mistakes. AI is coming for us all but it’s not like we weren’t warned. Since Fritz Lang’s seminal Metropolis hit the nickelodeons in 1927, cinema has prepared us for little else. In the subsequent nine decades, AI has been largely cast as a malevolent force out to do ill to the human race. View this post on Instagram Fell in love with a new sport! #speedgate is so electric. Incredible to see what #designweekportland can do with #ai. Cant wait to get out and #playspeedgate . . To find out more, check out Playspeedgate.org A post shared by Kyle Furukawa (@whatthatdiscdo) on Apr 11, 2019 at 10:17pm PDT <!--//--><![CDATA[// ><!--\n\n\n//--><!]]> Sure, we have had the likes of R2D2 and C3PO in the Star Wars series or Johnny Five in Short Circuit but the vibe has largely been one of impending doom at the hands of our AI masters. If anything it is a message we are getting more often such as the HBO remake of Westworld or Black Mirror and it has people worried. It has already come for our board-games. The best human minds at chess and Go have come and gone at the hands of AI opposition. In the case of the self-taught AlphaZero, the latest version of Deep Mind’s AI software, there really is no contest left in either mind sport. So what does AI come for next? This week it was announced that AKQA Portland used AI to design a brand new sport, Speedgate. After feeding thousands of rules into their software they tasked it to create a new game, and some of the ideas showed a potential disregard for the safety of its human participants. One was a relay featuring exploding frisbees thrown at the runners as they run round the track, another saw players balance on a line between two hot air balloons and pass balls back and forth. These are the headline headshakers but there are thousands more where they came from. Speedgate is tame by comparison. It’s hardly speedball, the sport of a dystopian future as laid out in video games and a subsequent movie. Instead, it’s a six-a-side game that is a cross between rugby and netball where teams have to outscore each other by getting the ball through the gates at the end of the pitch – but only if they have already passed through those at halfway. What might have started out as a thought experiment for Design Week Portland has turned into real life, with the designers hoping to see it become a real sport in the next few years. There has already been interest from around the world. And why not? There are plenty of new games invented every year, which sound as mad as the things dreamed up by AI. Take the mix of capoeira, extreme trampoline, volleyball and football that is bossaball. Or don’t. Whether it’s quidditch or korfball there are always people dreaming up new games in the same way that someone thought Esperanto was the answer to global communication difficulties. Even the established sports such as cricket and rugby are messing with their formats in order to stay relevant to a younger audience. As for AI, it’s clearly here to stay, but it still needs a helping human hand for now. Speedgate was one of a thousand such ideas but they were whittled down to first 10 and later three by the team at AKQA. There are things that AI can not do, however. Speedgate’s generated motto of “face the ball to be the ball to be above the ball” is proof for the time being that humans are still necessary.