Soccer robots compete for the title

April 1, 2008
RoboCup
At RoboCup, automated bipeds are one of many types of robots competing for the title. Credit: Fraunhofer IAIS

Robot soccer is an ambitious high-tech competition for universities, research institutes and industry. Several major tournaments are planned for 2008, the biggest of which is the 'RoboCup German Open.' From April 21-25, over 80 teams of researchers from more than 15 countries are expected to face off in Hall 25 at the Hannover Messe.

In a series of soccer matches in several leagues, they will be putting the latest technologies on display. The tournament is being organized and carried out by the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems IAIS in Sankt Augustin.

For a machine, a soccer match is a highly complex endeavor. Robots must be able to reliably recognize the ball, the sidelines and the goalposts in addition to distinguishing between their teammates and opponents. To this end, they are outfitted with all sorts of high-tech equipment: cameras and sensors scan the robots’ surroundings, internal processors convert data to define game tactics and defense strategies, and innovative engines allow the automated players to sprint across the field and unexpectedly fake out their opponents.

There are now nine leagues, each of which has its own technological focus. In the middle-size league, robots get around on wheels. Four players and a goalkeeper compete for each team on a 20 x 14-meter pitch with standard soccer goals. They must be able to function completely independently and are equipped with internal camera systems that process information in real time. What’s more, the robots can move up to two meters per second.

Other automated soccer players, such as Sony’s robotic dog Aibo, run on four mechanical paws. And two-legged robots have been competing against each other at the RoboCup since 2005. “These humanoid robots have come a long way in recent years,” says Dr. Ansgar Bredenfeld, who is in charge of the RoboCup at IAIS. “Just like real players, they fall down and get up again, go after the ball autonomously and score goals.”

The RoboCup is more than just a soccer tournament. Since 2006, there has been a ‘RoboCup(at)Home’ category, a competition for service robots. In a replicated room, the robots must access refrigerators, collect garbage and recognize people. And in the ‘RoboCup-Rescue’ category, rescue robots must complete an obstacle course.

“RoboCup stimulates technological development in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible,” says Professor Stefan Wrobel, Executive Director of IAIS. “Many components that were originally designed for robot soccer have since made their way into other applications, for instance in localization technology for inspection robots.” Robots that can mow the lawn on their own or collect samples from the ocean floor for marine researchers are also equipped with RoboCup technology.

Participants under 20 years of age have their own competition, ‘RoboCupJunior’, which runs at the same time as the ‘RoboCupSenior’ tournament. In addition to fighting it out in a robot soccer tournament, the future generation of scientists will be competing in the RoboDance (robot dancing) and RoboRescue (obstacle course) competitions. These events are extremely popular: about 300 teams have registered for this year’s competition. To participate in Hannover, teams must qualify at one of three tournaments. “Germany has a serious problem: it lacks tens of thousands of engineers,” Wrobel points out. “RoboCupJunior is a very important event, as it sparks young people’s interest in technical degree courses.”

Source: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Explore further: Robots play soccer, make breakfast at the RoboCup German Open 2011 (w/ video)

Related Stories

Students Win Robotics Basketball Tournament

March 29, 2006

It may not be the final four, but it's definitely an exciting time for some Southern California high school students who won a regional game of robotics basketball. Now they're heading to the finals in the FIRST (For Inspiration ...

The complexonaut

April 9, 2014

When he was in elementary school, Scott Aaronson, like many mathematically precocious kids of his generation, dreamed of making his own video games. He had only the foggiest notion of what that entailed, however.

Recommended for you

Battery technology could charge up water desalination

February 4, 2016

The technology that charges batteries for electronic devices could provide fresh water from salty seas, says a new study by University of Illinois engineers. Electricity running through a salt water-filled battery draws the ...

Researchers find vulnerability in two-factor authentication

February 3, 2016

Two-factor authentication is a computer security measure used by major online service providers to protect the identify of users in the event of a password loss. The process is familiar: When a password is forgotten, the ...

EU and US reach new data-sharing agreement

February 2, 2016

The European Union and the United States struck a deal Tuesday over data-sharing that will allow the likes of Facebook and Apple to continue sending people's information across the Atlantic—but a legal challenge to the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.