RoboCup 2010: Could Robot versus Human Be Far Behind?

As the World Cup races forward in South Africa a different kind of soccer tournament recently kicked off in Asia. And whereas debates in Cape Town and Johannesburg may center on the Jabulani ball’s aerodynamics or the vuvuzela’s “unique” sound, in Singapore coaches are more likely to worry whether their favorite player has blown a fuse, so to speak.

RoboCup 2010 marks the 14th year that hundreds of roboticists pit their mechanized creations against each other in five different soccer leagues. Some are reserved for two-legged, two-armed humanoids, whereas others are for small, wheeled robots that look like polka-dotted coffee cans. There’s even a league just for virtual robots, where computer programs go head-to-head to test the limits of cooperative artificial intelligence.

The goal at RoboCup is not just to win but to push robotics in ways that apply in the real world—and to eventually build a team of robots that can beat the human World Cup champions. Humanoid robots have made great strides since their debut in the 2002 RoboCup, where they competed in four events: a penalty kick competition, a race, freestyle demonstrations, and the aptly titled “Standing Still on One Leg.”

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