Have you ever dreamed of chasing the Golden Snitch on a broomstick, as Harry Potter does in the game of Quidditch?
How about releasing a devastating “Kame Hame Ha” energy wave like the character Goku in the Dragon Ball manga and anime?
Our world and the realm of fantasy can overlap, says the Superhuman Sports Society (S3), a team of researchers, designers, artists and dreamers who formed the group on Tuesday.
S3 aims to create new sports empowered by so-called augmented human technology such as powered suits and wearable robotic devices, in some cases using virtual reality to free the player from earthly physical constraints.
The group plans to inaugurate the first-ever superhuman sports festival on Oct. 10 in Tokyo, with a view to hosting an international tournament in 2020 — coinciding with the Tokyo Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The festival in October will showcase how existing technologies can extend the body’s physical abilities.
One example is a ball that appears to have a mind of its own when thrown, making it very hard to hit.
With this ball, “anyone can throw a diabolical pitch like a character in anime,” said S3 Executive Director Kota Minamizawa. “We are also developing a virtual reality technology to release ‘Kame Hame Ha’ in Dragon Ball.”
Moreover, he said, Quidditch is a tempting ambition. The game, devised by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, has clearly defined rules and goals.
“It’s still difficult to make humans float, but we have a technology called tele-existence,” he said.
Tele-existence is a name given to wraparound vision from a camera that is mounted on a robot and tactile stimulation that is derived from its other sensors. Implementing such a system on a drone gives the operator a sense of flight, and it only takes the introduction of a flying ball to make Quidditch possible, Minamizawa said.
Offering an out-of-body experience like this is one way to give a sense of being superhuman, but S3 is committed to making the sports universal.”We want everyone to enjoy playing sports, regardless of age, disability or talent,” said Minamizawa.
One example, he said, is blind soccer.
“Currently, students at schools for the blind don’t have many opportunities to play sports,” Minamizawa said. “Augmentation technology would help us make sport more accessible for those with disability.”
Expanding the realm of sports does not only rely on enhancing physical ability or gadgets such as drones or swerving balls. The sports field itself need not be limited to a demarcated patch of land, but could be underwater or even in the air.
“As children we used to invent weird games playing outdoors. This is becoming once again possible with the technology, and everyone can be the creator of new sports,” said Minamizawa.
He added, the intangible buzz of “Cool Japan” may help S3’s newly coined superhuman sports catch on worldwide.
“We can share new sports and tricks in the same context, associating them with a popular anime or manga,” Minamizawa said.