If you love soccer and robotic technology, then RoboCup 2013 might be the perfect event for you. Thousands of RoboCup enthusiasts and more than a thousand soccer-playing robots arrived in Eindhoven this week to witness the marriage of sports and technology. According to RoboCup’s website, setup for the event began on Monday and competition began on Thursday and lasted until Sunday.
Citing RoboCup 2013 tournament director Rene van de Molengraft, The Telegraph reports that the soccer-playing robots might be affordable for wealthy soccer fans. In fact, the standard platform robot costs $5,000 when purchased in bulk. However, the adult-size robot costs $35,000 or more. With 11 players to a side, this means that someone would have to drop $770,000 to have two teams of soccer-playing robots.
RoboCup says that soccer was chosen as one way of encouraging the advancement of robotics because soccer is an extremely popular sport with many people worldwide. Thus, soccer matches garner a lot of attention from fans and the news media. Also, developing soccer-playing robots challenges engineers to think about the design and capabilities of their robots because playing soccer requires a lot of movement.
According to RoboCup, RoboCup Soccer has six different competitions. The Associated Press points out that the best soccer matches to watch are those in the “standard platform” division, where all teams must utilize the same size humanoid robot, created by Aldebaran Robotics. The AP notes that these particular robots have glowing eyes that can alter their color to reflect “emotion.” In addition to standard platform, Robo Soccer also has the following divisions: 2D simulation, 3D simulation, small size, middle size and humanoid.
The rules are simple. According to The AP, there’s absolutely no human interference once a match begins (the robots can stand up by themselves). Only when a team wants to call a substitution or if a robot has broken down on the pitch, can a human member of the robot’s team become involved. Referees are also allowed to remove a robot for fouling a member of the opposing team.
The Vancouver Sun reports that a team of 20 University of British Columbia students attended the competition to enter their tiny soccer-playing robots into competition against other teams from around the world. The newspaper says that the students will return with new knowledge about robotics to share with their colleagues.
Sports-playing robots have existed for years. In 2009, for example, a Japanese professor developed a pitching robot that was able to deliver nearly 100 percent of its pitches in the strike zone. The pitching robot threw a plastic foam ball at 25 mph, but University of Tokyo professor Masatoshi Ishikawa hoped to increase the speed to 93 mph.
The dream of RoboCup Soccer is to defeat the world champions by 2050. Can a team of robots beat a team of world-class soccer players in less than 40 years? Will robotic technology advance quickly enough to make achieving this goal a possibility? Could a robot really become as good as a Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi? Sound off in the comments section.
Note: RoboCup isn’t just about soccer. RoboCup also includes competitions in Robo Rescue and Robo@Home.