Sport’s most-wanted technology developments revealed including underwater racing cars and cameras in footballs

THE tech developments children want to see in sport include free-flying drones, performance-enhancing exoskeleton suits – and AI referees.

A poll of 1,000 kids aged 10 to 16 found cameras in footballs and underwater racing cars also ranked highly.

Kids are keen to see virtual reality added to sport

While 85 per cent watch some form of sport, 25 per cent would be likely to view more if robots and computers were involved.

Others are hoping the future will include devices that can fix broken bones and injuries in a flash, as well as boxing gloves that measure just how hard a punch is thrown.

A spokesperson for Virgin Media O2 which is supporting BBC Children in Need with 5G connectivity across their national Hado eSport tour, said: “Technological advances are unlocking new possibilities every day.

“From VAR to Hawkeye, smart balls to wearable sensors, technology has already transformed sport in ways unimaginable a few decades back.

“While we’re someway from many of the out-there ideas young people dreamt up, cutting-edge 5G connectivity will help unlock new innovation in future.

“It is clear from the research that children want to see more technology used and that it would have a positive impact on how much they watch and play their favourite sports.”

Despite widespread controversy over the implementation of VAR and video technology in the modern game, football was the most popular sport to watch, with 64 per cent of the youngsters tuning in.

Tennis (26 per cent) and rugby (24 per cent) claimed silver and bronze when it comes to most popular sports, while 15 per cent said they hadn’t watched any sport at all, either in person or on TV in the past year.

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However, a quarter of kids said they would be more inclined to watch sports if technology was involved – compared to only four per cent who would be less likely.

Almost eight in 10 (78 per cent) said they would be excited if more technology was added to their favourite game.

The idea of robot referees was popular as were cameras in smart footballs (both 41 per cent), while 17 per cent were taken with exoskeleton suits to protect athletes and 12 per cent fancied supplying basketball players with trampolines.

Teleportation around the golf course to make the game quicker was a hit with an impatient 13 per cent and 14 per cent thought motorised swimsuits were a genius idea.

The study, carried out via OnePoll.com, revealed that more than a third (35 per cent) of children said they watched sport a few times a week, seven per cent did so every day and 19 per cent once a week.

Outside of school 45 per cent played football, 27 per cent went swimming, 15 per cent took part in athletics and nine per cent played rugby.

More than a quarter (27 per cent) played some kind of sport in their free time on at least two days a week.

Asked how they felt about robots competing alongside human athletes, 24 per cent said they were curious, 21 per cent were confused and 17 per cent were excited.

Despite four per cent saying the idea made them jealous, 11 per cent were happy at the thought.

More than one in three (35 per cent) had played eSports or multiplayer video games, welcoming the potential to compete in virtual sports.

FIFA was the favourite for 57 per cent of young people, followed by Fortnite (51 per cent) and Call of Duty (43 per cent).

Virgin Media O2’s spokesperson added: “Increased access to technology is rapidly changing the hobbies and interests of the younger generation, with esports becoming a more popular way for them to spend their time.

“Incorporating technology with traditional sports will keep young people engaged, enabling them to get the physical benefits in a way that they find most entertaining.”

Top 12 most wanted tech developments in sports – voted by kids:

Smart balls with built-in sensor

Cameras in footballs

Virtual reality headsets for fans so they can see sport through eyes of their favourite player

Eco-friendly sports stadiums

Injury prevention technology so players don’t get injured

Robot referees

Advanced safety technology to let coaches know if players are injured

Virtual fan interactions which let viewers speak to players

Underwater racing cars

Exoskeleton suits to make players stronger

Artificial intelligence (AI) sports commentary

Swimsuits which have motors on them

Trampolines in basketball

Teleportation on golf courses to make the game quicker

Artificial intelligence (AI) coaches

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