Face the ball. Be the ball. Be above the ball!
This is the motto of a brand-new sport called Speedgate. The sport is like many others, two opposing teams attempt to score by throwing or kicking a ball through their opponent’s gate while defending their own. However, there is one glaring difference between Speedball and other field sports like soccer, rugby or football — the game was completely designed by artificial intelligence (AI).
Speedgate was developed by digital agency AKQA, which fed the AI data on roughly 400 existing games and worked to refine and interrupt its responses. According to the game’s official website, the development team used three criteria to determine whether or not the AI designed games were viable. “…[F]irst it had to be easy to learn and fun to play. Next, the sport had to be accessible to all kinds of athletes. And finally, it had to be physically engaging — meaning a great workout.”
The ultimate result was a game that is easily recognizable and strikingly unique. In Speedgate, each team is comprised of six players — three forwards and three defenders. The teams score points by throwing or kicking the ball through one of the gates located at either end of the field.
Speedgate’s defining characteristic is the inclusion of a third gate in the center of the field. To be eligible to score in one of the end gates, a team must first pass the ball through the center gate. But teams need to be wary because the center gate is also a penalty zone. Step foot in the central gate area and you’ll earn your team a foul.
TechCrunch reports that AKQA demonstrated and discussed the sport earlier this week in Portland, and are in discussions with the Oregon Sports Authority about a possible intramural league this summer.
“Speedgate is an absolute blast,” the sport’s official FAQ boasts, “We’ve played with intramural college athletes, kids, and kids with adults. Everyone loves Speedgate.”
However, according to the same FAQ, not all of the games the AI came up with were as well regarded or even feasible as Speedgate. Some of the highlights include: a type of underwater parkour where teams transverse an obstacle course laid out completely beneath the surface of the water; a dangerous version of frisbee golf where players hurl exploding discs at each other; and a version of racquetball played on a tightrope suspended between two hot air balloons.
While not all of the AI’s ideas for new sports were winners, it went the whole nine yards with Speedgate. It didn’t simply define the rules for the game, it also came up with the sport’s logo. According to the sport’s website, “the team used a DCGAN (Deep Convolutional Generative Adversarial Network) to analyze over 10,000 existing sports logos.” Then, the AI’s human cohorts interrupted the results and used recurring patterns, colors, and shapes to ultimately arrive at the current logo.
The AI even came up with the sport’s motto, “Face the ball, to be the ball, to be above the ball.” The motto seems to encapsulate the surreal nature of the entire exercise. It is equal parts utter nonsense, zen meditation, and inspirational slogan. Face the ball. Be the ball. Be above the ball. Words to live by from our future robot overlords.