tradition this week, when a camel race in Doha, Qatar for the
first time featured robots at the reins.
July 13, workers fixed robotic jockeys on the backs of seven
camels and raced the machine-mounted animals around a track.
Operators controlled the jockeys remotely, signaling them to
pull their reins and prod the camels with whips.
This feat of technology was also a development in human rights.
Racing-camel owners in many Persian Gulf countries traditionally
use children as jockeys, sometimes as young as four years old.
Faced with pressure from human rights groups, Qatar outlawed the
practice last December and looked to technology to keep the
Officials approached the Swiss robotics firm K-Team, which came
up with a compact solution. The new robot jockeys weigh 57
pounds (26 kilograms) and cost about U.S. $5,500 each.
The market for these robotic riders may soon be growing. In
April the United Arab Emirates announced that it too would use
robots in camel races. And in May, Oman declared a ban on child
jockeys, effective this fall.
Sheik Abdullah bin Saud, the Qatari official in charge of the
robot project, told the Associated Press in April that the goal
of the program was to "improve the speed, the weight, the
aerodynamics, to reach the ultimate goal of completely phasing
out children used as jockeys."
- Blake de Pastino