A university in London is developing a computer-generated competitor for tennis players. It analyses video footage of former tennis professionals, picking out moves and techniques and developing a database against which it can compare other players. It can track both players throughout the game, and it knows the difference between an attack and a defensive play. Not only can this save players and coaches from hours of pouring over opponents’ video tapes, but it keeps everything on record so that anything can be accessed later on with ease.
In several European countries, soccer clubs use Artificial Intelligence technology when administering physical examinations to players to help trainers and coaches determine the likelihood of a player developing an injury. The machine collects the player's biomedical data and compiles it with other records and signs of illness. Once the information is analyzed, the technology can spot injuries, or potential injuries, much more quickly and effectively than a doctor or coach may be able to. Athletes’ personalities and psychological profiles can also be stored in the machine, and can be used to guess the way people will act or perform in different situations. Some scientists are still skeptical, wondering how accurate the hollistic, cut-and-dried decisions made by robots will be when dealing with atypical or complicated situations. However, most agree that the technology has potential as long as the computer and the coaches use actual soccer experience to judge players’ physical and mental fitness.
Not only are robots used to examine human players, but some also actually play the sport as well. The RoboCup is an international competition in which competing teams—usually from universities—create teams of robots that play soccer against each other. The robots have to be autonomous and self-propelled. The creators cannot use any kind of remote control to operate the robots. The contest includes several categories, including humanoid, four-legged, small, and middle-sized, and it has taken place in many different countries including Japan and Germany. Younger students can participate in the RoboCup Junior competition and compete against other primary and secondary school students. The RoboCup Junior was designed to teach younger children about robotics and Artificial Intelligence.
The ultimate goal of this international program is to have a team of fully autonomous humanoid robots beat a human world champion team by 2050. The robot-sportsmen must incorporate many different types of technology and strategy in order to be successful. The June 2006 competition will take place in Bremen, Germany. You can visit the RoboCup website for more information on RoboCup.