RoboCup Takes Place in Graz, Austria: Robots Play Soccer and Search for Survivors

Earlier on Singularity Hub, we covered the RoboGames.  That was all well and good, with smashing and melee and some soccer to boot, but the six-year old RoboGames tradition is not the final word in mechanized competition.  The RoboCup has been an annual feature since 1997 and, in true international spirit, has taken place all over the globe from the USA to China.  This year’s Cup was held in Graz, Austria this past weekend and while SOME EDITORS wouldn’t shell out for plane tickets to get some ring-side action, we have still compiled a healthy host of highlights for all to enjoy.

While the RoboGames boasts many different competitions, the RoboCup is much more focused on a few key events.  As is European custom, soccer is a mainstay of the Cup.  There are a few different categories including small size, medium size, standard platform and humanoid leagues.  A simulation league is also offered, being played in a virtual world for those who wish to focus solely on programming the artificial intelligence.

All leagues are solely autonomous, placing a great amount of emphasis on creating the correct algorithm to make the robots as formidable as possible.  In the standard platform league, every entrant uses the same Nao robot.  In the other leagues competitors design, build and program their own robots according to the published rules.  Take a look at the humanoid league preliminary match to get a feel for the gameplay:

Soccer is not the only fixture of the RoboCup.  There is also a search and rescue design competition called RoboCup Rescue, where entrants must design a robot capable of entering hazardous and dangerous locations.  The robots are placed in a foreign terrain and allowed to search for dummies hidden in the wreckage while creating a virtual map of the entire locale.  While it might not be as exciting as soccer, this footage of a rescue mission is still a great feat of robotics and engineering.

Finally, there is a competition intended at getting the robot to be a bit more domestic.  The RoboCup@home entrants must design and build a robot that will help support humans in every-day life.  In preliminary action, the robots abilities are shown to judges.  If they deem the robot has what it takes, it is sent to the final round where it is placed in an apartment of undisclosed layout and set to do a series of tasks.

All of these events also have a junior version, meant for children and teenagers under the age of 19.  The events are a bit easier (soccer balls emit infrared light and rescue robots are to follow a painted line), but still pose a formidable challenge to the geniuses of tomorrow.  The footage is gripping and the competition fun.  Take a look at this video for some highlights of all events this year.

Between the RoboGames and the RoboCup, it seems that robotic competition is on the rise.  It is only a matter of time before advancements in the competitive world are implemented into the real world and robotic search and rescue becomes a standard procedure for all major disasters.  Robots are becoming increasingly agile and intelligent, being able to discern teammate from opposition and to find objects in an obstacle course.  Perhaps these robotic designs are not quite suitable for everyday applications but, with every year of the RoboCup, design improvements inch them ever closer to that point.

Andrew Kessel
Andrew Kessel
Andrew is a recent graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, MA with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. While at Northeastern, he worked on a Department of Defense project intended to create a product that adsorbs and destroys toxic nerve agents and also worked as part of a consulting firm in the fields of battery technology, corrosion analysis, vehicle rollover analysis, and thermal phenomena. Andrew is currently enrolled in a Juris Doctorate program at Boston College School of Law.
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