Baseball season in Taiwan to open with robot fans in the stands

Baseball season in Taiwan to open with robot fans in the stands
For home games at Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium, the Rakuten Monkeys will have robot mannequins in the stands to give the appearance of fans to the players and the national TV audience.

The Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) will open its season on Saturday, 11 April. Due to the measures enacted by the local government, no more than 500 people -including players, coaches, umpires, media, league officials and stadium staff - will be admitted into the venues.

In response to the limitations and wanting to give their fans the best experience possible, the Rakuten Monkeys are introducing robot fans, called "the tenth player on the field". The initiative has generated worldwide headlines.

The club said the new "teammates" don't necessarily need to be human and "for the time being [amid the coronavirus pandemic], they will be the spectators and cheering section to help excite the game."

The Monkeys play their home games at Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium, where the robot mannequins will cheer for the players and be seen by a national TV audience.

Some of the robot mannequin fans have even been programmed to hold up signs supporting the Rakuten Monkeys.

In 2014 the Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), introduced "fanbots" to the world. The digital cheerleaders were controlled by fans who couldn't come to the stadium but wanted to be a part of the atmosphere and root their team on.

Rakuten, a Japanese online commerce and retailing company, acquired the Monkeys last September. The team name was formally changed to the Rakuten Monkeys in December last year.

The new uniforms are similar in design to those of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden, the club based in Sendai that plays in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) Pacific League.