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July 11, 2011

Robots Expected to Play Humans in Soccer by 2050

The Robot World Cup does not provide the same level of play as this week’s women’s World Cup soccer tournament – but give them some time.

Teams from throughout the world recently competed in the Robot World Cup held in Istanbul, Turkey.

And the United States can take special pride: A team from Virginia Tech's Robotics and Mechanisms Lab won two divisions of the tournament using the DARwin and CHARLI robots.

Here’s the way it works. Teams of robots play against one another in a game that is similar to real soccer games.

There are goals. There's a ball. The robots are designed to get the ball in the back of the net. And there are rules to the game. Action is slower than in the human version of the World Cup.

If they fall, some of the robots can get themselves back onto their feet.

The Robot World Cup has been around since 1997. The robots show a sensing of the environment, motion tracking, artificial intelligence, wireless communication, and precision movement control, according to Techland.

The long-term goal is to have a team of robots playing a soccer match with a human team in 2050 and winning the game, according to the RoboCup 2011 website.

The lessons learned in RoboCup can be applied to social problems and have relevance to industry, organizers say.

There are many technical challenges in RoboCup. In the humanoid league these include: dynamic walking, running, and kicking the ball while maintaining balance, visual perception of the ball, other players, and the field, self-localization, and team play, according to the RoboCup website.

The humanoid robots are separated into three classes based on size: KidSize (30-60cm height), TeenSize (100-120cm) and AdultSize (130cm and taller).

In AdultSize soccer, a striker robot plays against a goal keeper robot. Then they exchange roles against each other.

Virginia Tech’s DARwIn (Dynamic Anthropomorphic Robot with Intelligence) series robot is part of a humanoid robot family. It can do bipedal walking and perform human-like motions.

Engineering topics that come up in robot soccer are: mechanical design, kinematics, dynamic bipedal gaits, ZMP control, vision tracking, and complex autonomous behavior.

The newest version of DARwin is 560 mm tall and 3.6 kg. It has 20 degrees-of-freedom.

DARwin uses computer vision and IMU. It can implement human-like gaits. It can also navigate obstacles and travel across uneven terrain, according to Romela.org.  The other Virginia Tech robot is CHARLI – a full-size humanoid robot.

However, its mechanical and electrical design is different from existing humanoids, according to Romela.org. A lightweight CHARLI will be built for competitive robot soccer and demonstrations.

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Ed Silverstein is a RobotXworld contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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