June 25, 2010 / 12:11 PM / 9 years ago

Soccer robots show German team how to do it

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - It was a typical German soccer display that could be a form guide for the World Cup — industrious, no-nonsense and victorious.

But England, who face Germany in a knockout match in South Africa on Sunday, need not worry yet — this was a four-a-side tournament, some of the players looked like vacuum cleaners, and half-time was really used for recharging batteries.

Nevertheless, German teams won three of the four competitions in the RoboCup Soccer Humanoid League held in Singapore this week, beating teams from Japan and Australia in the finals.

Over 150 teams took part and just like in South Africa, an Italian team crashed out early, although one of its goals was eye-catching.

“We can say our robots are better than the national team,” said Luca Marchetti, a 30-year-old student from a University of Rome team.

“I’ve never seen back-kick scoring like this in real soccer,” he said after one of his robots found the net with a spectacular back-heel against a team from Carnegie Mellon University of the United States.

The tournament was divided into four categories — for adult-sized robots, teenage-sized, child-sized and an open category.

On the 18 by 12 meter perfectly proportioned soccer field in an air-conditioned hall, the robots mimicked human movements during a 20-minute game — passing, kicking, shooting for goal and even pushing and fouling other robots.

There were referees, but they were humans. A robot which persistently fouled was sent off for two minutes.

The robots were fully automated and pre-programed to recognize the orange-colored balls, kick, dodge, pass and shoot for goal. In the 10-minute half-time break, teams of programmers frantically charged batteries and uploaded software.

Zhou Changji, Chair of RoboCup 2010 Singapore, said the idea of the league was to collaborate and research improvements in artificial intelligence, enough to eventually have robots play on a real soccer field.

The common aim was “by 2050 to have a team of fully autonomous robots to beat the World Cup champions” he said.

The students who built the robots were confident it would happen.

“Robots will beat humans at soccer one day” said Veevee Cai, a 20-year-old student from the University of Pennsylvania.

“Considering advancements in the last 40 years, it’s possible.”

Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Steve Addison

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