Category Archives: Sports

Robot reflections

Will robots learn to be compassionate and creative, or will they learn to kill?  Perhaps both, but I greatly prefer to be chased by an empathic robot.

Elon Musk — CEO of SpaceX and Tesla — has called for a ban on use of killer robots.  More specifically, autonomous robots that can kill without a human in the decision-making process.  But what happens if some countries decide to develop autonomous killer robots, while other countries decide not to?  Negotiating a ban on killer robots worldwide sounds like a good idea, but killer drones can probably be made fairly small.  How does the United Nations or other enforcing group insure that nobody is actually making such machines undercover?  If a nanobot were to be weaponized, it could be almost undetectable!

As a video games designer, I would vastly prefer that robots were used to bring joy into people’s lives.  Some robots are currently learning to play and become experts at several board, card, and video games.  Other robots can play a bit of table tennis, soccer, and other sports.  Let’s have a worldwide robot Olympics where robot teams compete in video games, baseball, tennis, and other sports.  Maybe even against humans.  A much nicer way to decide which country has the better programmers and robot scientists and algorithms.

And why can’t robots be compassionate too?  Okay, that’s a difficult thing to put into AI right now.  But it seems like a good goal.  The robots below probably don’t have any empathy yet, but they sure know how to make me smile.  If you enjoy robot stories, you may be interested in my e-book anthologies “Science Fiction: Robots & Cyborgs” and “Science Fiction: Time Travel and Robots 2”.

Robots like to play games too

For years, we’ve read about chess, checkers, and more recently GO and Jeopardy, played by computers with artificial intelligence.  The new trend seems to be robots that play games, whether it is a way for robots to learn or just computer scientists amusing themselves.

There are robots controlled by humans, of course, and drones are a good example of that.  Now there’s drone golf, where a golfer uses a drone to play golf.

Also, artificial intelligence researchers are using games like Minecraft as a testing ground, as well as StarCraft and other games.

Finally, as more evidence, I give you the robot that set the new Rubik’s Cube record.

When does 13 baskets equal almost 20 baskets?

It’s no secret that I like math and games.  It should also be no secret that I like sports.  The first video games I developed were based on the game of Bowling — Mattel Handheld Bowling and Intellivision Bowling.

Sports also permeates a bit of my science fiction writing.  In my latest anthology, “Science Fiction: Genetics“, I’ve included “It’s in the Stars”.  This story is about a couple’s desire to determine the best sport for their child to play, hoping for them to become a star.

I also enjoy watching sports, like baseball and basketball.  So I am very impressed with the new 3-point record set by Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors NBA team last night.  He made 13 out of 17 3-pointers — outside the 3 point arc — to set a new record of 13 3-pointers in a single game.  That’s 39 points just for the 13 3-pointers he made, while it would take 20 2-pointers to score 40 points.

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NBA and VR

I’m all for trying new things with technology, but I think I’ll pass on this one.  My vision for VR (Virtual Reality) is more in line with the “Star Trek” Holodeck like experience, where I’m in VR but my body experiences it essentially the same way I experience reality.

But sports has often led the introduction of new technology, such as 3D TV, computer game consoles, and other devices.   In the new NBA Digital/NextVR teaming up, you can watch an NBA game with a VR headset.  An NBA game is 2 hours long.  But how long can one comfortably wear a VR headset?  I guess some will find out when the NBA season starts next week.

Goggles Guy clip art

Battlebots: Yeti versus Lucky

Researchers are working on all kinds of robots.  There are military robots, robots with emotions, robots that detect our emotions, domestic robots — like the popular vacuum cleaner, chat robots, and robots that even do their own research.  But robots do not yet have consciousness, as far as I know — or as far as I understand consciousness, which is to say that consciousness is a difficult subject.

Robots even make us laugh.  Or at least, I sometimes find them funny.  That’s why I chuckle when I watch BattleBots.  The recent match between Yeti and Lucky was a good one.  They put on quite a show, each destroying parts of the other.  If I suspected the robots were aware, I would not condone the activity any more than I would seeing animals in a fight,  But at least for now, I find the conflict enjoyable to watch — sort of mesmerizing like a good computer-age demolition derby.

Someday, I won’t be laughing at robots quite so much, unless they intentionally want to be funny.  And what about robots that want to laugh?  What will they find funny?  If you find this thought interesting, you might enjoy reading my award nominated story, “A Comic on Phobos”, or one of my robot story anthologies.

By the way, you can get “A Comic on Phobos” for free until the end of July, 2016 at Smashwords.  My anthologies can be found on my homepage.

What’s new in juggling?

The IJA (International Juggling Association) is having their annual convention in El Paso, Texas this year.  One of the main jugglers featured at the Cascade of Stars show at the end of the week is Emil Dahl.  Like many exciting new jugglers in the past few years, he’s created a new kind of juggling.  It’s called “Magnet Opus”.  Below is a video of his work.  Pretty neat.

Creative solution

If you’ve frequented my website, you know that I enjoy playing disc golf.  But I am tired of wiping leaves, grass, and bugs off my bag, and having to find long sticks when my disc is stuck in bushes or trees.

Below is a photo of my new bag, cart, and retriever.  The retriever is just a golf ball retriever that extends from a size I can fit in my bag (not quite length-wise, though) to almost 7 feet.  It’s around $10 from Amazon.com, which is less than most other disc golf retrievers I’ve read about.  It’s not as versatile for disc-in-the-water retrieval, but it’s really handy, inexpensive, and convenient to carry.

The cart is from the Clearwater Disc Golf Store in Clearwater, FL.  It keeps my bag off the ground about 6″ and folds up easily to store.  In the summer, I might put a small ice container under my bag to keep my drink(s) cold.

I’m always looking for creative outlets, and this solution allows me not only to keep my bag clean and avoid having to find long sticks, but also to concentrate on my throws and play rather than putting down and cleaning off my bag all the time.

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Dangerous juggling, Halloween style

I enjoy juggling 3 or 4 balls, or 3 clubs, or 4 rings, but I have never tried anything more dangerous than juggling a bowling ball, ping pong ball, and a tennis ball.  That was scary enough for me, but Three Finger Juggling has something truly dangerous for jugglers.  I’m not recommending you try any of these items, and I don’t intend to try them myself, but for the sake of Halloween, I’ve provided the link to their website.

Note at the bottom of their website they claim: “Due to the nature of these props, they are for use of experienced jugglers only…”  I would add that they are not even for use by most experienced jugglers.  These juggling props are DANGEROUS!

Disc golf inspiration

I’ve always enjoyed a good hike in the park, and more recently discovered the sport of disc golf.  I had played and enjoyed Frisbee golf on the campus of UC Irvine back in the early 1980’s, but until about 8 years ago I had not considered playing again.  When I began to notice chained baskets in the park, I realized that the sport was taking off around the country.  While I’m old enough now that a close to 300 ft. drive is a rare achievement for me, I love to play.  The challenge is part of it, but even more so I think it inspires my creativity.  Having to design shots on the fly that will go left-to-right, right-to-left, sail under a forest of tree branches, pass straight through a gauntlet of trees with a creek, fly over the top of a hill, or extend all the way down a steep hill and bank dogleg left or right at the end of flight, not only tests my physical skills but requires me to examine my options.

Whether I’m authoring a new short story or designing a game or solving a mathematics problem, I find I need some of the same thinking processes.  So whatever your pursuits in life that require creative thinking skills, I recommend disc golf and a walk in the park as a warm-up exercise.  Below is one of my best drives ever, playing hole #17 recently at Crooked Creek Park near Chapin, South Carolina.  I played the right disc (Opto Diamond by Latitude 64) at the right time that day.

Juggling inspires the mind

I enjoy juggling.  The first time I was inspired to try and juggle was probably when I saw the movie “The Juggler” (starring Kirk Douglas) on television.  Since then, I’ve learned to juggle 4 balls or 3 clubs or 3 rings.  It can help you to focus, and it seems to be enjoyed by a number of the engineers and mathematicians I know who can think in many dimensions.  So I thought I would point out today that 2014 World Juggling Day is June 14.

Teaching the art of juggling

I am a long time amateur juggler, able to perform a few basics with 3 or 4 balls, 3 or 4 rings, or 3 clubs.  5 ball juggling has always escaped me, as well as many of the more complicated 3 and 4 ball patterns.  That’s why it’s great to see more capable jugglers creating videos that teach others how to perform some of these difficult tricks.

The International Juggler’s Association (IJA) has an annual contest for submissions of video tutorials, and they have chosen their top 10 for 2013.  Below is just one of the videos I enjoyed watching, especially since the 5 ball juggling skill is so elusive to many amateurs.  If you are interested in the science of juggling, Discover Magazine (2004) featured an article on the “Mathematics of … Juggling.”

 

VR helmet and a treadmill

Dvice.com calls this a peak at the first real holodeck, but I think that’s a bit much.  I have not tried it, but I wonder how it feels to walk upstairs in the video, while you are actually walking level.  Also, as an exercise tool, I wonder how effective it would be since there is a lot of stopping and starting.  It’s not the holodeck that I want, and I wish they would have come up with a non-shoot-em-up game for an example.

Disc Golf is a fun sport

I played Taylor Park disc golf course in Largo today.  On the 12th hole (336 feet to the hole) I made my drive through the trees, but it curved left and landed in a clearing about 130 feet from the hole.  The basket was just a few feet from the lake today.  I sent my second shot right of the basket (which is where I wanted it), and it curved left and fell right into the basket!  My previous record for making a shot was 100 feet.

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