A Struggling Korean Baseball Team Has Come Up With A Novel Way To Increase Attendance: Robots
Being a fan of the Hanwha Eagles - a struggling South Korean Baseball team - means growing very well-acquainted with disappointment. They're one of the worst baseball teams in South Korea, and possibly even the world. Long-suffering fans have had to tolerate a crushing series of losses over the past five years, accounting for a total of around four hundred.
Yeah. They aren't the best.
Fans of the team are regarded with a combination of sympathy and derision. People who fall into the latter camp can't help but admire their dogged devotion, and so refer to them as Buddhist Saints. Those in the former, however, describe them as the Hanwha Chickens...for some reason or other.
Anyway, the team seems to have made peace with its identity; rather than trying to spend money improving on their roster, players and officials have decided that their first step is to improve the atmosphere at their games. To that end, they've invited a plethora of curious new fans to reside in the stadium. They're robots.
More specifically, they're telepresence robots. Fans and supporters not able to make it to the stadium can connect through an Internet client, at which point they'll be able to control one of the robots from the comfort of their own home. The machines can cheer, chant, and even "do the wave."
Presumably, they aren't able to do much more than that - the thought of a robot-led baseball riot is kind of a terrifying one. Riots with flesh-and-blood fans are distressing enough. We most assuredly don't need a bunch of cold, metal machines tearing up the pitch and hurling cans of oil at the players.
People using the robots can upload their own face to a screen on the robot's head so that it can be viewed at the stadium. I'm assuming there'll be some form of digitization at work (that or it's just a static picture); it'd be a little difficult to regulate live video on such a large scale, and you just know there'll be at least a few folks eager to abuse a feed that's being streamed to a sports match. I don't think I need to go into any further detail here,
Reception for the robots has been mixed. While some have openly accepted the new tactic and adopted the idea of attending games through a machine's body, others have dismissed it as a poorly thought-out gimmick. Either way, it's not likely to make the Hanwha Eagles any better at what they do, nor is there necessarily any guarantee that it'll actually improve attendance at games.
If anything, it might actually make attendance even worse. Fans that might once have attended Eagles matches may instead relegate themselves to cold, metallic bodies; an already-dwindling crowd replaced by artificial fans, fake cheers, and stiff, mechanical waves. Kind of a grim thought, isn't it?
Plus, I've gotta ask - what's the real difference between watching the game on TV and watching it through one of these? This isn't like a convention where you can wander around the show floow; it's pretty clear that these robots aren't going to be able to leave their seats. If that's the case, why not just turn on the television and watch the game recorded with professional commentary?
I guess it just goes to show that - as awesome as robotics tends to be - there are some things for which robots simply aren't very well-suited. I suspect this is one of them. From where I stand, replacing living fans with artificial ones isn't going to change anything whatsoever for the Eagles - or the few people who still swear by them.