Robot Soccer (Football) Getting Better, Goes Global

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robot football getting better
Robot football is almost as popular as human football. These two bots face off at the 18th Kondo Cup.

Call it football or soccer, either way it’s the world’s most popular sport, and like all the good things in the world robots are out to conquer it. Every year, there are more and more robotic competitions that feature football tournaments, and every year the action gets better. Remote controlled miniature humanoid robots form the majority of most competitors, but there are also autonomous androids, wheeled swarms, and full sized bots in the mix. None of these guys can challenge Beckham or Ronaldo yet, but they’ve got some impressive moves you’ve got to see. Check out our videos below to see how robo-football is really heating up.

The Robo-One Competition is one of the biggest robot battle and demonstration conventions on the planet. It’s only fitting then, that it’s Robo-One Soccer off shoot should draw some major attention back in 2007. This football match is the epitome of the genre: RC humanoid robots with some surprising moves. Gotta love the save at 0:40.

Kondo, the purveyor of miniature robot kits, sponsors its own football tourney. These competitions seem like they happen every other week in Japan. December saw the 18th installment of Kondo Cup (see photos). The 17th was only a few months back in September. Here’s a clip:

If you like watching the RC humanoid robot version of football, you’re in luck. Chances are there’s a competition near you tomorrow. Besides Robo-One Soccer and Kondo Soccer, there’s also the Robo-Cup (most recently in Austria), and the Robo-Games (here in San Francisco). People just can’t get enough of this stuff.

18th Kondo Cup
Another mighty kick at the 18th Kondo Cup.

But maybe you’re palette is a little more refined. Maybe you’re asking yourself, why do these robots need to be humanoid, why do they need controllers…heck, why do they need legs? Ah, monsieur, the following robot football delicacy is for you. Straight from the 2010 Singapore Robotic Games, these little wheeled soccer players are controlled by a computer hooked up to an eye in the sky. Humans just watch and applaud:

Yep, robot football is getting to be some serious business, and it’s branching out in to the big leagues. Check out Honda’s million dollar baby, ASIMO, getting in on the action. Skip to 0:43 or you’ll experience some major anticlimax.

What has this little journey taught us? The more complicated the bot, the less impressive the soccer. True robotic football is really going to take off when AI replaces RC and when “anything goes” replaces humanoid bipeds. For now though, I think robot football competitions are mainly about humans enjoying playing with toy robots. I’m totally okay with that. I love watching people watch robots play sports and I can’t wait until robots get to the point where they can challenge humans one on one. That will take years though, right? I mean there’s no way a robot can beat a human now-

Touche’, robo-kind. Touche’. It may be foosball, but I’ll give it to you…All right humans. It’s time to get serious. Someone start cloning Pele’. Let’s show these robots who’s boss.