Life on the pixelated border

Busy building virtual races for real athletes, we’re obviously fascinated by interactions on the borderline between machines and athletes. So two stories this week caught our eye.

First, the Washington Post noted that, after winning a gold medal in the world championships in Beijing, the most-likely next Olympian gold medalist in the javelin-throw is a self-coached guy from Kenya who relied on Youtube videos for his training regime.

Second, it appears that Google’s driverless cars are stumped by fixed gear cyclists doing “track stands.”  As the Washington Post explains:

In a track stand, a rider on a fixed-gear bike may shift ever so slightly forward and back in an effort to maintain balance. (Watch video of a track stand here.) Also, a rider doing a track stand maintains the body position typical of a cyclist in motion, not one that is stopping. For riders of fixed-gear bikes, it can be a fun game to never have to put one’s foot down on the pavement, but instead balance at stop signs and red lights.

A cyclist recounted the moment when man and machine collided… or, more exactly, failed to collide:

it apparently detected my presence (it’s covered in Go-Pros) and stayed stationary for several seconds. it finally began to proceed, but as it did, I rolled forward an inch while still standing. the car immediately stopped…

I continued to stand, it continued to stay stopped. then as it began to move again, I had to rock the bike to maintain balance. it stopped abruptly.

we repeated this little dance for about 2 full minutes and the car never made it past the middle of the intersection. the two guys inside were laughing and punching stuff into a laptop, I guess trying to modify some code to ‘teach’ the car something about how to deal with the situation.

Speaking of man and machine, both stories came to our attention thanks to Azeem Azhar’s brilliant new newsletter called The Exponential View.