You know those tackling dummies that have been used at football practices since the ’60s? Well, they can move now. Because they’re now remote-controlled robot-type things, and according to ESPN, at least a handful of NFL teams will be using them in training camps this summer.
Yep, NFL teams are now using robots to help them play football better.
The company that makes these robotic tackling dummies is called Mobile Virtual Player (or MVP for short… see what they did there?). The MVPs were developed at Dartmouth. But now the Steelers, Ravens and Rams are set to unleash these robots on their non-robot players at training camps. The theory goes, the players can tackle these movable dummies instead of each other, thereby cutting down on injuries and helping guys rest and recover. It could also save them money on labor. And help them (and even much younger football players) fine-tune their tackling techniques.
These robots could be the answer to the NFL’s elephant in the room–an elephant named CTE.
Spinning this forward, the implications are massive. These robots could be the answer to the NFL’s elephant in the room–an elephant named CTE. Imagine Tom Brady being protected by a robotic offensive line. Or dropping back and throwing downfield to a streaking robot that runs a 4.2 40. Or, imagine every player on the field being a robot, sort of like a marriage between the NFL and those video game E sports that are getting more and more popular. (Not unlike that classic video game Cyberball 2072 that you used to play in your friend’s basement.)
Possibly before too long, college football teams will be recruiting the smartest kids to come “play” football for them. National Signing Day will be less about the athletic kid and more about the kid who aced his SATs. We’ll see “coincidences” in which that genius out of India turns up at Harvard, and his father somehow also gets a teaching assistant job in the engineering department there… hmm… meanwhile Alabama will be struggling to keep up with the pace of play at M.I.T. and the University of Chicago.
Could college kids really get psyched about watching robots play other robots on college football Saturdays, beating each other’s hard drives out, rather than 18-year-old kids from the inner city beating their brains out? Tough to say.
At the very least, this could lead to a Disney movie about a robot football player starring Hugh Jackman.