Robot “baseball fans” coming to a ballpark near you?

Sections: Robots/AI

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As a Philadelphia Phillies fan, it’s been difficult not to notice the acres of empty blue seats at Citizens Bank Park this year. After an historic sellout streak of several years, the team has fallen on hard times, as have its attendance figures.

That doesn’t mean the fans aren’t as passionate as ever. It’s just that a growing number of them would prefer not to spend their hard-earned money on an inferior product.

But what if you still wanted your voice heard at the ballpark? One Korean baseball team, mired in its own cycle of losing and empty seating, has an innovative answer: seat-filling robot fans — referred to as “fanbots” — that represent real fans in the stadium.

The BBC reports that the Hanwha Eagles have made fanbots available that can be controlled over the internet by fans. BBC says the bots can “cheer, chant and perform a Mexican wave.” (But can they boo, throw D batteries, or puke on an opposing team’s fan? I am a Philly fan, after all. ;-P)

Fans can control some of the robot’s movements, send text messages that they can display, and even upload their FACES to the robots. The prime function of the robots at this point, however, appears to be their ability to lead cheers and display messages using LED screens. (If you haven’t seen Korean baseball, the fan experience is different than that at American contests, in that there is a lot of synchronized cheering, as you’ll see in the video above.)

Is this creepy? A little. Is it a silly idea? Maybe. After all, there are lots of ways to feel even more engaged with a game that you’re not attending, such as Twitter, forums, bars and, of course, yelling at the TV in your living room. But give Hanwha Eagles credit for breaking the mold with its idea.

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