New Sports Creators Dream of Olympic Selection

Society Culture

The first Superhuman Sports Expo took place in Tokyo in October 2015. The objective of the event, and of the society that organized it, is to encourage the development of new sports that go beyond natural human ability or minimize differences arising from physical factors, such as age or disability.

Sights on 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games

The Superhuman Sports Society was founded in June 2015. S3, as it is known for short, counts researchers, artists, and designers among its members. It aspires to create new sports by organizing such events as “ideathons,” in which participants share their ideas, and “hackathons,” where participants brainstorm original equipment prototypes and game ideas.

From October 22 to 25, 2015, the society held the first Superhuman Sports Expo at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan) in Tokyo’s Odaiba district. S3 has ambitions of organizing an international pentathlon of “superhuman” sports events in 2020, to coincide with the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. By 2028, moreover, it dreams of having superhuman sports officially included as Olympic and Paralympic events.

Augmented Reality, Augmented Sports

Carry Otto

I tried out some of the games on show at the expo. HADO, an augmented reality battle game using head-mounted displays and smart wristbands was on display on a stage in the indoor exhibition area. Players engage in combat by swinging down their arms to fire virtual balls of light or moving them sideways to generate protective barriers. Games between two-player teams were also shown on a large screen.

The outdoor exhibition spaces featured demonstrations of various superhuman sports including Bubble Jumper, Carry Otto, and Hover Crosse. In Bubble Jumper, two demonstrators wearing jumping stilts clashed against each other like sūmō wrestlers, armed with huge beach-ball-like protectors covering their heads and upper bodies. The aim of the game is to knock opponents off their feet.

Hover Crosse

Carry Otto, meanwhile, is a twenty-first-century version of ancient chariot racing—the name comes from the Japanese pronunciation chariotto—in which the player controls a powered wheel with a pair of handles extending from both ends of the axle like reins on a horse. Although the driver sat on a small flat cart in the demonstration, the riding configuration is still under development. Hover Crosse is a game between two players, each standing on a kind of electric skateboard. The object is to drop balls into bowl-shaped goals on the top of poles, and opponents take turns playing offense and defense.

More Fanciful Ideas

Illustrations of ideas for superhuman sports, submitted by students at the Nippon Designers School, were on display as well. “Surf Soccer” depicts an acrobatic game of soccer with the perpetually changing surface of ocean waves as the playing field. In “Hover Shooter,” teams compete for goal points using a floating “hover ball,” while “Sports Chanbara” shows players in special gear agilely combating one another in the woods.

From left: “Surf Soccer,” “Hover Shooter,” and “Sports Chanbara.”

Other illustrations included “Water Dodgeball,” where players wear special suits that enable them to breathe underwater without the help of oxygen tanks or snorkels; “Snowball Fight” using gloves that produce snow; and a futuristic version of blind soccer in which players use different kinds of ultrasound to gauge the surroundings and communicate with team members.

S3’s first ideathon, held in July 2015, yielded as many as 148 ideas for new superhuman sports, some of which were featured at the expo. It remains to be seen which five of these events will win their way to selection for the international superhuman pentathlon scheduled for 2020.

(Originally written in Japanese by Sugimoto Hitoshi and published on October 29, 2015. Photographs by Ōtani Kiyohide. Banner photo: Bubble Jumper demonstrators collide in a sūmō-like duel.)

sports Tokyo Olympics Superhuman sports