Cyborg-style rugby players by 2051

Last updated 10:49 06/09/2011
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WHAT LIES AHEAD? Dr Ian Yeoman of Victoria University says robots could be common at rugby games in 40 years.

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Robot referees and players with bionic implants and built-in microchips - welcome to Rugby World Cup 2051.

This vision of the future is completely probable according to Victoria University associate professor Dr Ian Yeoman, who has been researching how rugby will be played four decades from now.

Dr Yeoman's thoughts on the future of professional rugby form part of a book to be published in the United Kingdom early next year called 2050 Tomorrow's Tourism.

He says technologies that already exist will be highly developed by this time, so the prospect of a cyborg-style rugby player is not hard to comprehend.

Bionic implants are becoming more common and are increasingly accepted in the field of professional sport - for example South African double amputee Oscar Pistorius, who qualified for the 2012 London Olympics using carbon fibre prosthetic running blades.

"We're also developing the means to create highly advanced nanobots (microscopic robots) capable of entering the bloodstream to feed cells and extract waste. Humans who have been injected with these nanobots will evolve into cyborgs and would make outstanding athletes," says Dr Yeoman.

He also predicts the invention of rugby balls with radio frequency identification chips, and robot linesmen and light-emitting systems to identify where fouls have occurred. "There'll be no more blaming the ref," he says.

While his research focuses on what is possible, rather than what is desirable, Dr Yeoman points out that ethics are constantly changing.

"Things that seem abhorrent now might be widely accepted in 20 years time."

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- Manawatu

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