Traditionally, sport is a competition between human athletes. In the future, we imagine that there will be five categories of athletes likely defined by the rules of a sport.
1) Able-bodied, unassisted athletes. The first category of athletes — able-bodied and unassisted — will most probably compete in "purist" sport, in which athletes compete according to rules not unlike the ones we have now. To start, the athlete of the future will have ever-optimized training through training against "super-human" artificial intelligence replays or endless scenario runs using digital twins. Training against “virtual ghosts” or against human form-factor robots trained to play like competitors might also be possible in the 2040s and 2050s.
2) Athletes assisted by technology. We believe that this category will include able-bodied and formerly handicapped athletes and that they will perform at a higher level than the unassisted athletes — more like a cyborg, with computerized body parts like human-controlled robotic prostheses. If cyborgs compete against each other in direct competition, it promises more spectacle and possibly even more excitement than a duel between unassisted people.
3) Robot athletes. Humanoid robots in sports will serve as sparring partners to humans — controlled via brainwave interface or gaze-based systems or as trainers. Eventually, we will also have robots in competition with other robots. For instance, in a robot football league, robot teams will play football against other robot teams. By 2050, there might even be the watershed event that was proposed by a community of robot developers: a team of humanoid robots defeats the reigning human football world champions.
4) Mental athletes. We already observe the rise of the mental or intellectual athlete, the third category of athlete, in memory and mental calculation contests. Mental competitive sports will only grow and differentiate as the competitive gaming industry develops. While intellectual sports already exist, brain research could develop completely different techniques still unimaginable today. Perhaps, in the distant future there will be completely new (virtual) intelligence competitions between humans and between humans and machines in as yet unknown thinking disciplines.
5) Virtual athletes. Athlete holograms created and controlled by software solutions or algorithms compete against each other. The software development skills required for these new sports will be distinct from other categories.