Robot baseball fans make headlines worldwide
Baseball — possibly Korea’s biggest sport — is in the news for new reasons.
Over the past few years, stadiums have seen a sharp rise in the number of spectators, partly due to fans’ hyper-enthusiasm, the cheerleaders’ singing and dancing for every individual player and the fact that baseball can be enjoyed with a combination of beer and fried chicken.
This time, however, a campaign carried out by a particular club has come under the spotlight. The Hanwha Eagles have been the worst team of the league over the past few years. At the center of their new-found popularity are what are called “FanBots,” humanoid robots built into spectator seats.
In March this year, the Hanwha Eagles built 24 FanBots in the stands of its Daejeon stadium. The group of robots, clad in Hanwha uniform and jeans, sits in the seats and has large LED screens as faces. The screen is programmed to show chants and photographs that Hanwha fans send over the Internet. This new invention makes it possible for fans who weren’t able to get their hands on tickets to still virtually attend the game. During critical times in the game, the FanBots can shake back and forth, dance as a group or do the Mexican wave.
The cheering robots are bringing new light to Korea, too. A number of international media outlets have already reported on the robots, including French daily Le Figaro, the USA’s NBC Today News, the New York Times, Japan’s NHK, the U.K.’s BBC News and German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.
The July 30 edition of the German daily, Süddeutsche Zeitung, published an article titled “Korea Invents a Fan Robot,” with an attached video of the robots. In the article, the German daily said, “The Hanwha Eagles are pioneers in this new area. Future baseball stadiums might be filled with fans of metal and LEDs instead of those with flesh and blood.”
Earlier on July 26, the BBC News covered the inspiration that FanBots bring. Along with a quote from Matt Cutler, editor of SportBusiness International, the article said that, “giving more fans a chance to ‘attend’ was important for professional clubs.” The British news organization pointed out that it is always hard to get season tickets at all the big clubs, but that Hanwha’s attempt with robotic fans might help more people experience the matches.
By Lee Seung-ah
Korea.net Staff Writer