Humans aren't the only ones playing football right now. From 19th to 25 June, robots from world-renowned universities will compete in Singapore for RoboCup 2010. This is the other World Cup where players range from 6-inch wheeled Wall-Es to 5-foot-tall humanoids.
The RoboCup, now in its 14th year, is the world’s largest robotics and artificial intelligence event with more than 400 teams from dozens of countries. Its participants aim to develop autonomous football playing robots that will one day be able to play against humans - so says RoboCup's mission statement: "By 2050, a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players shall win the game, complying with the official rule of the FIFA, against the winner of the most recent World Cup".
It may seem far-fetched that robots will ever be able to compete with the likes of Messi or Ronaldo, but 40 years is a long time in terms of technology. Remember Deep Blue? IBM's chess-playing robot that beat the World's chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997? Robotics have come a long way since then.
For now, researchers are exploring fundamental questions in robot development: For instance, how well can robots move and think on their feet? And, how well can they score goals?
We, however, pose our own questions, such as who are the one's to watch? Who are the Wayne Rooneys? For the answer, check out these:
Physics-Based Motion Planning for Robot Soccer Dribbling
Carnegie Mellon University (known as the Brazil of robot soccer) has developed a physics based motion planning AI for its dribbling bots. In conjunction with a global dual-camera overhead vision system, CMU roboticists have programmed their robots with the knowledge of the physics of ball movements, so the controlling computer can better predict where the ball is going to be which can then position the robots better on the field.
RoboErectus Kidsize RoboCup 2010 Qualification Video
RoboErectus was developed at the Robotics Center of Singapore Polytechnic. While he's kind of a shrimp, he's got some pretty sweet moves.
Dutch Robotics - Robocup 2010 Qualification Video
Dutch Robotics, an initiative from TU Delft, TU Eindhoven and University of Twente, presents TUlip, a humanoid soccer robot to compete in the Adultsize League. TUlip looks a bit unsteady but this video's music is very inspirational.
Team DARwIn RoboCup 2010 Qualification
The autonomous robot soccer team from Virginia Tech (RoMeLa) and the University of Pennsylvania (GRASP) for the RoboCup 2010 Humanoid League.
Robocup 2010 The UPennalizers
These bots communicate wirelessly or through tones. Aylin Caliskan, one of the humans behind Penn's team says that robots beating humans by 2050 "should be 100 per cent possible".
While some of these robots look like they'd have a tough time playing pre-schoolers, the advances from year's past have been outstanding. At RoboCup there are several different leagues including standard bots, humanoid bots and the wheeled division.
The standard platform league means all teams get the same type of factory-made, 22-inch-tall robots, but must write their own computer programs to guide them. Each team buys three robots that each cost over $17,000 on one retailer's website.
Another division requires engineers to build their own humanoid robots, in addition to writing the computer code.
RoboCup is a celebration of science, engineering and technology. Without all the swearing, pushing and penalties, it might not be as exciting as the World Cup in South Africa, but it's hard not to be inspired by our world's best and brightest.