Robots are coming for our jobs, and no one is safe – not even elite sportsmen. Traditionally, a runner or a footballer would train with teammates to push themselves to the best of their ability. Now, even the flesh and blood of a training partner may not be deemed worthy enough, as sports brands are developing sophisticated machines to push athletes to new limits.
Here’s a rundown of some of the automated devices the stars of track and field are using to get ahead of the game:
- The Puma BeatBot
- The Footbonaut
- Robot Tackling Dummies
The Puma BeatBot
The Puma BeatBot is a small, box-shaped automated device that sprinters can use to help improve their running times – by racing against it. Devised by Puma with the help of a NASA robotics engineer, the BeatBot is equipped with a built-in accelerometer and infrared sensors to track straight or curved lines on the ground.
How fast can it go? Puma hasn’t released details of its maximum speed, but it can match Usain Bolt’s 100m world record of 27.4 mph, so it’s no slouch!
Robot Tackling Dummies
During the NFL offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers began experimenting with robot tackling dummies in their training sessions. These remote-controlled machines have the strength and speed to match any NFL superstar, and unlike humans they never get tired.
The dummies can mimic many NFL moves and have clocked a time of five seconds for the 40-yard dash. They have been used for tackling, chase drills and also serve as placeholders for defenders in passing practice. These robots sound like a welcome addition to sports training - as long as they don’t start tackling back.
The Footbonaut is a football training machine that resembles a cage of 72 framed squares that can fire up to eight balls at players at different speeds and trajectories. The ball must then be controlled and passed into a highlighted square. It is used by clubs to improve fitness and technique.
Borussia Dortmund were the first club to adopt the machine in their training sessions, and many pundits have credited their recent success to this. Former Dortmund player Mario Götze claimed his winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final was thanks to years of practice using the Footbonaut.
For many years the South Korean baseball team Hanwha Eagles had little to celebrate as they repeatedly finished at the wrong end of the table. The impact of this was felt hugely in the stands, as fans stayed away and there was no-one to cheer the team on. The club’s management decided to act to improve the atmosphere at their matches, and brought in a crowd of robot fans.
The fanbots can cheer, chant and even perform a Mexican wave, though no pitch invasions have been reported – yet. Fans not at the stadium can send text messages to show their support, and these are displayed by the robots across the stadium via their LED displays.