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April 16, 2019 7:03 AM   Subscribe

Introducing Speedgate, a sport created (mostly) by AI.

TechCrunch: AKQA says it used AI to invent a new sport called Speedgate
The AI was good at coming up with descriptions for sports like “underwater parkour,” an exploding Frisbee game and one where players pass a ball back-and-forth while in hot air balloons and on a tightrope. But it took a back-and-forth process with the human team at AKQA to narrow the list down to the final three for playtesting, and then to refine the rules into something people might actually want to play.

“We know we can’t dangle 30 feet in the air, we understand the confines of what makes sense as a sport,” Jenkins said. Still, he insisted that Speedgate could never have been created by humans alone: “Using AI as a member of a creative team takes us to a new place, that we never could have gotten to without it.”
Endgadget: AI developed a whole new sport
The design agency AKQA has introduced Speedgate, reportedly the first sport envisioned by an AI. The event has six-player teams competing on a field with three open-ended gates. Once you've kicked the ball through a center gate (which you can't step through), your team can score on one of the end gates -- complete with an extra point if you ricochet the ball through the gate. You can't stay still, either, as the ball has to move every three seconds.

AKQA created the game by feeding data on 400 existing sports to a neural network, which then created basic sports concepts and rules. A large chunk of those were completely unrealistic (exploding Frisbees, anyone?), so the team gradually whittled down the eligible characteristics until there were three remaining sports. Playtesting led to Speedgate winning the prize.

(Creative Director Whitney) Jenkins said that while Speedgate isn’t meant to be derivative of any particular sport, “If I was talking to my buddy walking down the street, I would say that we used AI to create a new sport that pulls the best of rugby, soccer, ultimate frisbee and croquet.”

AKQA will be demonstrating and discussing Speedgate at an event in Portland... Jenkins said the team has hopes for Speedgate beyond Design Week, including discussions with the Oregon Sports Authority and a possible intramural league this summer.
Single image description of the rules.
posted by lazaruslong (34 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
exploding Frisbee game

This was one of the options and they went with a football analogue? Such wasted opportunity.
posted by jkaczor at 7:06 AM on April 16 [5 favorites]


Gah, enough with these AI snake oil salesmen. It sounds like they generated a ton of random gibberish, cherry-picked the best gibberish, then tried to make sense of the gibberish, flexing their design chops. They could have done this more easily with a deck of index cards and a bottle of whisky.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:29 AM on April 16 [45 favorites]


"Another fine product from the nonsense factory" really needs to comment on this, for optimal eponysteria. RobotVoodooPower is also pretty appropriate, though, so I'll take what I can get.
posted by Alterscape at 7:38 AM on April 16 [9 favorites]


They could have done this more easily with a deck of index cards and a bottle of whisky.

Or asked a bunch of kids. Speedgate strikes me as very much something that some keen sports playing kids could have come up with over the course of a summer afternoon and then refined by some millennials over pizza. Not that there is anything wrong with that as it looks like this might be fun to play.
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:40 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Oh... And exploding frisbees wouldn't have to be deadly... Think more like... Paintball...
posted by jkaczor at 7:48 AM on April 16


I’m skeptical about exploding frisbees. Wtf sport was in the corpus to introduce the concept of “exploding”?
posted by supercres at 7:51 AM on April 16 [10 favorites]


Agreed this sounds like it's more "human developed with some random brainstorming from a computer program" than "AI developed". Not a bad thing, mind you, but the hype is silly.

The game looks pretty good? The distinctive feature to me is the need to pass the ball through the center gate with its zone of exclusion around it. I can't think of any existing game that has a feature quite like that.

It also feels more than a little quidditch-ish. Maybe just because of the poles. Are The Kids still playing that quidditch-for-muggles game that was a fad a few years ago?
posted by Nelson at 8:01 AM on April 16


Wtf sport was in the corpus to introduce the concept of “exploding”?
I'm pretty sure I remember polo involves exploding ponies. Yes, it was probably polo.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:03 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


It seems like the training data was 700 documents describing rules across 400 sports. I've never done ML, but isn't that incredibly small?
posted by codacorolla at 8:07 AM on April 16


Wtf sport was in the corpus to introduce the concept of “exploding”?

I could only see this if it was taken from textual salty game commentary... (i.e. "they exploded onto the field")

But... if AI thinks that humans always love things that explode, this is not necessarily a good sign for our future...
posted by jkaczor at 8:07 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Exploding Frisbee wouldn't necessarily have to actually explode (though that could be fun). Say you rig up a Frisbee with a timing device which goes off and makes the Frisbee impossible or difficult to throw effectively? Maybe then add some gameplay components of Frisbee Golf? Essentially making it like a "hot potato" game with some goal scoring elements - that sounds completely like a game you'd see college students playing after a few beers.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:12 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


I'll note that a few of us back in the day were able to come up with an equally cool game just by spitballing around in a thread that was supposedly about the legal issues surrounding letting your children play unsupervised. We didn't need some fancy AI, or even any alcohol (as far as I know).

I guess some alcohol wouldn't have hurt.
posted by Naberius at 8:14 AM on April 16


calvinball - feed that into an AI and see if it either has "divide by zero", "accidental sentience" or "singularity" errors...
posted by jkaczor at 8:18 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


43 Man Squamish. This is the sport. Feed this into AI and watch it’s toes curl.
posted by njohnson23 at 8:35 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


They could have done this more easily with a deck of index cards and a bottle of whisky

Yeah I think "created by AI" is such a runaway gimmick right now, feeding off our cultural biases and hype. You can look at any random output and imagine it should be very interesting because it came from something we fantasize is incredibly intelligent. That can synthesize vast amounts of information and create the deepest connections—the most book-smart and powerfully intuitive brain we can imagine.
posted by little onion at 8:37 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


It seems like the training data was 700 documents describing rules across 400 sports. I've never done ML, but isn't that incredibly small?

It depends on what you're trying to do. In some sub-fields such as computer vision, one-shot or few-shot learning (i.e. learning something from a single example or only a few examples) is an active area of research. For example, given an image recognition network that has already been trained to recognize several kinds of object (e.g. cats, trees, people), teach it to recognize a new kind of object (e.g. bicycles) using only one example of what a bicycle looks like.

This can work surprisingly well because the computer has already been taught, e.g., how to pick objects out of the background, how to recognize round shapes and straight lines, etc. It can apply those same feature recognition abilities to learn that bicycles look like two large, thin circles connected by some thin straight lines.

Similarly, in natural language processing, you can start by showing the computer billions of words worth of text (e.g. Wikipedia), so that it learns some general rules about what words tend to follow other words. Then you can fine tune that model on a much smaller body of text that you're interested in (e.g. sports rules). That model will do a pretty good job at spitting out individual sentences that look like plausible rules, at least out of context.

The real hurdle that machine learning is facing right now is how to go from the level of a single image or a single sentence to a larger, coherent structure such as a series of images or sentences that tell a story. Only in the last few months have researchers begun to get traction on that kind of problem. Some examples: late last year a team managed to train a computer to play the Atari games Montezuma's Revenge and Pitfall at a high level. To give you an example of the difficulty of this: the prior state of the art for Pitfall was literally a score of 0.

These games were much harder than games such as Centipede or even Mario because they require long-term planning and memory. Mario pretty much just requires learning "go up and right, don't touch anything bad or fall into a hole."

Developing rules for a sport or game is a similar long-term thinking problem: the rules can't be contradictory. There can't be an obvious best strategy. Offense and defense have to be reasonably evenly matched. The rules can't be too complex or have too many exceptions. There has to be a clear, achievable win condition. There has to be a clear, inevitable condition for switching between offense and defense.

Ideally, one would develop a general purpose game simulator and evaluate each generated set of rules for balance and complexity. But that would be a lot more complicated than just mashing some sentences together, and so.
posted by jedicus at 8:40 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


Players with the ball in hand are not allowed to move.
What does this even mean? I'm going to join a team just so I can constantly call foul any time an opposing player even blinks while holding the ball.
posted by dbx at 8:41 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


My cousin is an elementary school phys ed teacher. I sat in on his class once because it's really hard to imagine him wrangling thirty ten-year-olds. On the day I visited, the class broke into small groups and brainstormed new games. They had to write down the rules, equipment needed, and a name for the game. Then each group presented their game to the entire class. The class voted on the best game and the next week they played that game.

The school had recently banned dodgeball and a lot of their ideas were variations on the forbidden game ("everyone wears a cone on their head and you throw a ball and try to knock off the cone- it's called Conehead!") but some groups came up with games that sounded fun.
posted by Drab_Parts at 8:45 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


And in February some researchers found that some of image tasks "deep learning" apparently does so well on can be well approximated with some very shallow learning (looking at tiny patches of the image; not making connections). From one of the authors: the availability of many weak & local statistical regularities can be sufficient to solve the task in which case [Deep Neural Networks] do not learn the underlying "physics" of the world (like object shape).
posted by little onion at 8:47 AM on April 16


What does this even mean? I'm going to join a team just so I can constantly call foul any time an opposing player even blinks while holding the ball.

Come on, man. In the context of nearly every game in existance "move" means "change position on the playing field." Like, I'm usually the first to point out when a game's rules are vague and unclear as to how they're meant to be resolved, but this isn't that.
posted by Caduceus at 8:53 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


Having pretrained the algorithm on existing data would explain all of the kooky shit that it suggested at first, and would also account for the small training data. It seems like the method may have been to use a pre-rolled algo that can recognize English text, applying that to their corpus of rule documents, and then running it through until it produced sentences that the team could cherry pick and structure into a full rule document. I don't necessarily hate that approach... it seems similar to how designers use other tools (sort of like an image board), but it's not exactly what the link is advertising. Using ML as a generative tool to scope out the odds parts of a domain, and then allowing humans to explore those parts with their intuition is cool, but it's not clear if that's what was done here (advertising companies don't tend to show their methods).

The idea of putting a neutral goal in the center of the field that causes possession (meaning potential to score) to change is relatively unique. Most sports (that I'm aware of) tend to define possession either literally (if you can make a full court shot in basketball then you could score anywhere), or in phases (only the offense can score in Baseball, or the defense needs to make a legal play to score in American Football). I can't think of any sport off hand that has a possession arrow that changes dynamically based on interaction with an element in the field, and mechanically that is actually pretty cool. The lack of transparency here means that I do have suspicions if that cool idea was arrived at from a suggestion from a ML tool, or if it was something that a human learning algorithm had thought of at some point and put into the game.

My overall reaction is: 'that's sort of a neat idea'.
posted by codacorolla at 8:54 AM on April 16


700 documents is a tiny training set for the hot new techniques of deep learning in complex neural networks. The reason "AI" is big right now is that we finally have data + computing resources to process millions or billions of samples. And with that kind of data, a fantastically complex neural network can be trained to do some things that are pretty complex. Like beat humans at hard games.

But 700 documents is plenty to train a Markov model. Hell, even a single document is enough if it's got enough words in it. More is better, but hundreds are plenty. And Markov models are another form of generative toy AI that were faddish a few years ago. We have one here on Metafilter for generating MeFi comments.
Yeah, a post deleted for being meh is not actually at all a no-brainer for us, no. Being careful about that force; it was (a) super duper rough but (b) kinda interesting for all that.

We aren't heading in that direction. This question getting to live in. I am aware of (at least one of the F1...F12 keys or media controls etc, try that in this case. sanko, I think you should feel bad for feeling them".

(not actually) posted by cortex at 3:52 PM on April 16
So there you go, two totally different things called "AI" that can both generate some plausible text. One requires very few samples, the other requires millions. Markov models end up being very limited and you can spot the limitations pretty quickly, but it'd certainly be enough to generate some word salad to go along with some whiskey to make up rules for a new sport.
posted by Nelson at 8:56 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


I also think this would work better with board games. There are only so many physical sports in the world, but there are many times more board games. I'm not sure how uniform the data would have to be - would you have to sanitize the data into unique chunks (e.g. goals, elements, rules, etc.)?
posted by codacorolla at 9:05 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Having pretrained the algorithm on existing data would explain all of the kooky shit that it suggested at first, and would also account for the small training data. It seems like the method may have been to use a pre-rolled algo that can recognize English text, applying that to their corpus of rule documents, and then running it through until it produced sentences that the team could cherry pick and structure into a full rule document. I don't necessarily hate that approach... it seems similar to how designers use other tools (sort of like an image board), but it's not exactly what the link is advertising. Using ML as a generative tool to scope out the odds parts of a domain, and then allowing humans to explore those parts with their intuition is cool, but it's not clear if that's what was done here (advertising companies don't tend to show their methods).

I probably should have emphasized this more but didn't want to editorialize too much. The design agency is kinda trying to have it both ways with flashy headlines and some hedging, e.g.

“Using AI as a member of a creative team takes us to a new place, that we never could have gotten to without it.”

So the AI is just one member of a creative team, while the claim is that the AI came up with novel ideas that the humans would not have. I dunno, we can all obviously take that as we will - I just thought the idea and game looked neat. And the horribly fatal game suggestions made me LOL.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:11 AM on April 16


Oh, and the logos that the AI came up with (as a member of the creative team) also have a pleasing kind of...Jetsons meets Fallout vibe to them that I like.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:13 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


That being said I did spend the other weekend getting GPT2 to improvise in iambic. (And highly selecting for the best gibberish.) So feel free to hallucinate artistic intent on this:

A bird came down the walk,
the bird was not a fly,
and so he took the fly, and said
to me, "Go down the walk".


A bird came down the walk,
a dog came up the steps.
The dog ran up and hit her with
a rock The woman screamed


A bird came down the walk,
I ran to her, And when
she looked, she found me dead. The night
was cold ,The birds were gone.

posted by little onion at 9:13 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


Come on, man. In the context of nearly every game in existance "move" means "change position on the playing field." Like, I'm usually the first to point out when a game's rules are vague and unclear as to how they're meant to be resolved, but this isn't that.
I disagree! Can you pivot? Is there allowance for slowing and stopping due to momentum? Nearly every game in existence accounts for these: in baseball, there is a physical base you must be in contact with to be considered "not moving". In basketball, you get some number of steps after picking up your dribble, and you can pivot on one foot while not dribbling. In ultimate, you get a pivot foot and some small number of steps to come to a stop. In football, you're literally not allowed to move before the snap, unless you're one of like two special people on the field. "Can't move while holding the ball" is not an enforceable rule, and nearly every athlete in the world understands the subtleties that must be considered when writing and interpreting rules.
My cousin is an elementary school phys ed teacher. I sat in on his class once because it's really hard to imagine him wrangling thirty ten-year-olds. On the day I visited, the class broke into small groups and brainstormed new games. They had to write down the rules, equipment needed, and a name for the game. Then each group presented their game to the entire class. The class voted on the best game and the next week they played that game.
I do this when teaching Game Theory, but for casino-style games. Children are incredibly creative at this sort of thing, and it's always a ton of fun.
posted by dbx at 9:59 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


There are a ton of nitpic steps for their rules sheet. It isn't a rulebook, at all, but it is a brand new sport. There are a ton of things to work out.

For instance: no physical contact. OK. Two teams, A and B. A1 has the ball, and is passing to A2. Player B1 goes to intercept, jumps and catches the ball. B1 crashes into A2, who had established position, didn't move, and was waiting to catch the ball. Who committed the foul?

B1, because their momentum brought them into contact with another player?
A2, because they touched the ball-carrier?

Another example. Two teams, C and D. C1 kicks the ball way downfield. C2 standing in position to catch it. D1 jumps up and deflects the ball away, but in the process the C2 and D1 collide.

Etc. etc. I do like the base rules here, and I think there is something to this game. There is a lot more to do, though.
posted by andreaazure at 10:15 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


> The rules can't be too complex or have too many exceptions.

Even relatively simple sports like soccer have large, actively updated rulebooks because participants are continually finding ways to game the system ("why can't my team kick the opponents?"), exploit edge cases ("how far into the goal counts as 'in'?), and legislate the shit out of the existing rules ("how far down the shoulder does it count before it's an arm?").
posted by ardgedee at 10:24 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Come on, man. In the context of nearly every game in existance "move" means "change position on the playing field." Like, I'm usually the first to point out when a game's rules are vague and unclear as to how they're meant to be resolved, but this isn't that.

Is a player with the ball allowed to take a step to kick the ball? Does a player who catches the ball while running have to stop before kicking it? I don't find the rule to be clear at all.
posted by sensate at 10:33 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


For instance: no physical contact...

I guarantee this argument is happening right now in an ultimate frisbee game somewhere in the world (or on r/ultimate).
posted by Drab_Parts at 12:46 PM on April 16


Wtf sport was in the corpus to introduce the concept of “exploding”?

Calvinball.
posted by loquacious at 1:26 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


But... if AI thinks that humans always love things that explode, this is not necessarily a good sign for our future...

This human sure loves things that explode. I would totally play Exploding Frisbee. I wonder how you would make one? Perhaps I can figure it out in time for festival season.
posted by crotchety old git at 3:04 PM on April 16


It's difficult to tell what a game's going to be like from rule but it's fun to try.

I guess it does go fast... If you get possession of the ball you have three seconds before the defender is allowed to "go after the ball" (so I guess it does allow a little aggressive contact). Three seconds is not a lot of time to find an open teammate, and since you can't run the defender is going to right up in your face.

The center gate is interesting. It takes away long ball counterattack, but makes even more of a chokepoint for teams trying to switch from defense to offense, which helps the offense of the team with gate possession.

It also really need penalties, esp. for defensive fouling, which has no drawbacks. Foul every time the offense has a good play going, and foul hard to make sure you disrupt it.
posted by fleacircus at 10:01 PM on April 16


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