Spark

Introducing Speedgate: the world's first AI-designed sport

The world's first sport invented with the help of AI is a hit with players, including the research team that helped develop it.

'Face the ball, to be the ball, to be above the ball.'

Players in a game of Speedgate, the first AI-designed sport. (Courtesty AKQA)
Listen12:37

Many of us in Canada have seen the Heritage Minutes film about the invention of basketball by Canadian James Naismith in 1891, back when the game was played using a peach basket.

Today, inventing a sport is a little more high tech. A design firm in Portland, Oregon, recently introduced Speedgate, the world's first sport invented with the help of artificial intelligence.

"So what we did was take over 400 descriptions of sports from around the world, and trained an AI algorithm on those so it could produce new concepts," said Kathryn Webb, the AI Practice Lead at AKQA who worked on the project. "Then later on we used different models to help flesh out the rules and the gameplay."

Kathryn Webb (AKQA)

The resulting sport, Speedgate, is a team sport involving three 'gates' made with sets of poles. When the ball is kicked through the centre gate it unlocks the end gate which allows your team to score.

The gameplay is a "blast," according to Whitney Jenkins, the Creative Director at AKQA. He and his colleagues plays the game on weekends. "It is very fast paced. You are constantly catching, kicking, throwing, just running for the ball, so it's a really good time," said Jenkins.

The AI even came up with a motto for Speedgate: "Face the ball, to be the ball, to be above the ball." "That was absolutely my favourite moment – reading the outputs and finding that little golden nugget in there," said Webb. "We've taken it exactly as quoted."

Whitney Jenkins (AKQA)

Webb believes that the project demonstrates how AI can be part of the creative process. "It's really the idea of AI as a creative partner and as a member of the creative team," she said. "It really worked for our process in terms of having this kind of fearless idea generator."

The team at AKQA see Speedgate as a viable sport and want to encourage people around the world to play it. "We went from being a digital design company to realizing, okay now we've invented a sport, what do we do, how do we do this," said Jenkins.

The Oregon Sports Authority has already helped establish Speedgate as an official sport in the state. In the fall, AKQA hopes to be rolling out intramural leagues globally. "The response has been tremendous," said Jenkins.

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