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Man vs. machine: Can 49er outkick Ziggy?

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They say 49ers kicker Joe Nedney is Mr. Dependable on the football field — but could he be more dependable than a robot that kicks field goals?

We will find out today at Kezar Stadium, where Nedney and a robot named Ziggy are set to battle in a man vs. machine field-goal contest that has the 49ers’ kicker a bit nervous about losing his spot on the team.

“If the Niners officials are out there watching this thing, my job might be in jeopardy,” Nedney said jokingly during a radio interview Friday.

The media-only event kicking off at 11 a.m. is intended to promote the upcoming International RoboGames, where robots from around the world descend onto the San Mateo County Fairgrounds to compete in more than 70 events in front of more than 15,000 attendees, organizers said. The event runs from Friday through Sunday.

The idea to pit Nedney against Ziggy — known as a battle robot that launches other robots into the air so they come crashing to the ground — was to show how RoboGames is just as much a spectator sport as, say, NASCAR, said event co-founder David Calkins, who’s a professor of robotics and computer engineering at San Francisco State University.

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It’s to “get more sports enthusiasts to come to the events and not just geeks and tech people,” Calkins said.

Contest rules: Nedney and Ziggy take turns kicking field goals, starting at the 20-yard line and moving back 5 yards after each round. The first person — or bot — to miss two field goals loses, Calkins said.

The 37-year-old Nedney said on the radio program that he heard 5-year-old Ziggy can kick a 60-yard field goal with “deadly accuracy.”

Ziggy — created by Michael Worry, a Canadian engineer who now lives in Campbell and is the CEO of Nuvation Engineering — is designed to not slice or hook the football. Ziggy has connected from 62 yards; Nedney’s career best is 56 yards.

Nedney hopes the rain in the forecast will play into his favor.

“I know I can kick in the rain, but I wonder if [Ziggy’s] going to short out,” he said in the radio interview.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

 

And in this corner …

Ziggy the combat robot will take on the 49ers’ Joe Nedney in a football-kicking competition at 11 a.m. today at Kezar Stadium.

Ziggy
Birth date:
March 24, 2005
Birthplace: Campbell
Height: 14 inches
Weight: 340 pounds
Occupation: Combat robot
How long to build: Three months (two years to perfect)
Longest successful field-goal attempt: 62 yards
Stats: Won-Loss record: 17-8 (in eight events); awards include gold, RoboGames (2006); second place, Rochester Robot Rampage (2005); second place, ComBots Cup I (2005); gold, RoboGames (2007); gold, RoboGames (2008); second place, Texas Cup; and gold, RoboGames (2009)

Joe Nedney
Birth date:
March 22, 1973
Birthplace: San Jose
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 234 pounds
Occupation: NFL kicker
How long to build: 9 months (still trying to perfect)
Longest successful field-goal attempt (in NFL game): 56 yards
Stats: In 15 NFL seasons, five with 49ers, has scored 1,063 points, making 245-of-306 (80.1 percent) field-goal attempts; is 6-of-6 on tries up to 19 yards, 82-of-83 for those between 20 and 29 yards, 77-of-88 between 30 and 39 yards, 65-of-97 between 40 and 49 yards; and 15-of-32 on attempts of 50-plus yards; is 328-of-331 on extra-point attempts (typically 20 yards)

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