It’s not uncommon for new technology to spawn a new sport: Drone racing has become hugely popular around the world, and Segway Polo is apparently still a thing. It’s now artificial intelligence’s turn to give us a new pastime, but will the sport it invented, Speedgate, take the world by storm, or will it be relegated to this ad agency’s company picnic?
AKQA, a creative agency that works with brands like Nike and Beats, helped create the new sport for Design Week Portland that took place last week. As with many AI-assisted creations, it started by feeding a neural network a list of information about 400 existing sports, including how they’re played, how they’re won, and what rules apply. But unlike neural networks doing automatic face replacements, which rely on databases of thousands of source images, 400 is a limited sample size, and the AI’s suggestions required some human guidance and refinement.
TechCrunch spoke to Whitney Jenkins, AKQA’s creative director, who revealed that some of the AI’s proposed sports included a game played with exploding Frisbees (I’d watch that) and one involving hot air balloons and tightropes. Definitely new and unique, and definitely implausible. Humans helped the neural network refine its over 1,000 suggestions, and ultimately three games were physically tested before AKQA chose Speedgate and finalized its rules.
The game combines elements of several existing sports including Rugby, Soccer, and Handball, and can be customized to suit large or small fields. Players pass a ball (a size four Rugby training ball is currently used until the official Speedgate ball hits the market) to teammates by tossing, kicking, or punting it. The field is marked by three large rings encircling gates, and the ultimate goal is to get the ball through the opposing team’s defended gates which sit at either end. But to officially gain possession of the ball, it first has to be kicked through a gate located at the center of the field. It sounds like there’s a lot to keep track of, and players won’t have a lot of time to stop and think given they only have three seconds to either pass the ball or try to score.
The full rules and regulations for Speedgate are available on its flashy website, and AKQA appears to be putting a lot of effort into promoting its new sport right out of the gate—which might help it catch on. But let’s not pretend this is an altogether altruistic move on the agency’s part. The accelerated rate that artificial intelligence has been evolving is staggering (and a little terrifying) and as a result, experimenting with AI is a surefire way to drum up some free publicity. Sports are big business, and while Speedgate doesn’t require a pricey drone or expensive Segway to play, should it catch on, there’ll be no shortage of ways to capitalize on its popularity.