Soccer madness spreads to robotics as UK hosts first National Robot Football Championship

04/01/04

The first ever UK Robot Football Championship will take place at the University of Warwick, Coventry as universities high tech robot footballers come head to head, on April 5-6. England is internationally renowned for its world-class soccer teams, but few people know that the nation's robot side have got what it takes to win a European Championship.

The University of Plymouth's squad will compete against the University of Warwick, which has just developed a rival robot team with cutting edge technology and new tactics that partakes in competitions governed by the Federation of International Robot-soccer Association (FIRA), and is set to make its tournament debut.

As the human version of Euro 2004 kicks off this summer in Portugal, the FIRA European Robot-Soccer Championships 2004 will take place 15-18 June in Munich, Germany. The University of Warwick's 'Team Evolution' is one of the 14 teams from 11 countries, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain, set to participate.

Caroline Browne, one of the six 4th year engineering students who developed the University of Warwick's squad of low-maintenance Beckhams, said: "The home side is confident as we have spent the last 6 months developing our champion robots - super-intelligent boxes on wheels that can recognise colour and pack a good kick."

With the increase of robots in the real world it is more important than ever to build teams of robots capable of high-level cooperation in real-time situations. Robot-soccer is an entertaining way of demonstrating progress in the field of intelligent systems.

In this league, two teams of five 7.5 cm cubic robots play with an orange coloured ball on an internationally specified pitch, and try to score as many goals as possible. Pitch marks and ruling correspond more or less to those of conventional soccer. A referee watches over both of the five minute halfs of the game. Fixed cable connections, fouls and owner's intervention during the play are prohibited.

The robots must be fully autonomous with all powering on-board, but all of the "thinking" takes place on the host computer, which gets its information from a video camera suspended 2 meters above the pitch.

Dr Ken Young, Engineering Department, University of Warwick, said: "Researchers in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics set the challenge of developing a team of football-playing robots capable of beating humans by 2050. There's still a long way to go before the world's footballing robots are up to the "2050 challenge", but tournaments promote autonomous robot development and facilitate ideas exchange to further the robotics industry."

At the 2004 FIRA Robot World Cup, Korea, held after 4 regional Championships in Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America, and South America, more than 110 robot soccer teams from 23 countries will compete. FIRA, as opposed to FIFA, brings together skilled researchers from different disciplines to play robot soccer, and there are many categories that involve different size robots and pitches that compete in different tournaments.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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