SEARCH WITH EAGLE EYE

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Eagle iRobot: a futurist’s view of Crystal Palace


















Never mind the youth academy and searching the lower leagues for talent… Tony Matthews says technology is the answer to Palace's talent crisis

I bet the boffins in the UK Office of Science and Innovation's Horizon Scanning Centre laughed to themselves when they decided to call their studies into the robotic future the Sigma and Delta scans. They could have called them the Eric and Ernie scans or the Derek and Clive scans, but that wouldn’t have sounded futuristic enough, would it?

This British government study, recently reported by the BBC, reckons that within the next 50 years some too-clever-by-half types will have invented intelligent robots, and said robots will require the same rights as humans. So that knackers the idea that they’ll get on with the hoovering and make your dinner while you put your feet up. In fact you’d better prepare yourself for them to rise up and slaughter you in your beds, cos that’s what the silvery-sods always do in the films, whihc is not a pleasant thought although it won’t stop the technomuppets from inventing them will it?

Microsoft’s Bill Gates might want to make robots a reality, but for many of us they conjure up all kinds of unpleasant images, from Rutger Hauer’s malevolent replicant putting the fear of Noades up us in Blade Runner to Will Smith’s battles in I Robot to Woody Allen’s stuttering little service droid in Sleeper. But amid all these nightmarish science fiction visions, one of the most obvious practical applications for robots could be for Palace to build themselves an artificially intelligent footballer.

What we’re after here, is a number 8 with a tackle like Iron Man, the precision passing trajectory of a laser guided missile and the pace of a T1000 model Terminator. And we haven’t had one of those since Geoff Thomas.

Fortunately, Eagle Eye can reveal that Palace is at the forefront of developing such technology and, if the work of the Selhurst Park CyberTechBoffinLab bears fruit, we may at last see a little bit of steel added to our midfield. Professor Kitt Syborg, the enormously clever chap who is head of research and development at the CPFC laboratory, is aiming to produce a complete player, one that combines the loyalty and ability to do as it is damn well told of a Cyberman with the aerial ability and clinical finishing of a Dalek. Unfortunately, Palace chairman Simon 'I'm only human' Jordan is being a bit tight with the old purse strings and so far professor Syborg is trying to create such a being out of two packs of Bacofoil, a set of corner flags, some rubber bands, a pair of Clinton Morrison’s old silver boots and a tin of WD40.

The first question for someone producing an artificially intelligent footballer is ‘how artificially intelligent does it have to be?’ The answer, it seems, is ‘not very’ or to put it into a complex scientific formula ‘short planks to the power of 2 = professional footballer’.

Despite having one or two screws missing, Professor Syborg says Palace are on the verge of a major breakthrough and should soon be able to put a microchip into Clinton Morrison’s shoulder (which should balance him up quite nicely) but Palace are experiencing teething troubles with a model called an iKuqi because they can’t get the clunking great feet right and it keeps tripping over itself. The real development work, though, is being saved for a new Roboforward called Tommy Klangley, who looks like a cross between an ordinary household dustbin and Tweekie from Buck Rogers… and plays like one, too.

While Palace struggle to finance their robot player programme, stinky rich clubs like Chelsea and Arsenal are already well advanced in their plans for a futuristic future. The Arse have developed an indestructible robot that is capable of shape shifting and time travel ready to turn out on the right wing. By contrast, Palace’s left back, who may one day be called upon to face such a terrifying machine, is made out of an old Whitehorse Lane End urinal, a pram wheel, and the hose attachment from a 1970s Electrolux vaccuum cleaner. ‘We’re pretty certain Palace’s new left back will suck,’ said professor Syborg.

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