As soccer teams from around the globe competed for the World Cup in Russia last week, another contest was raging in Montreal: the RoboCup, an annual contest to build and program teams of soccer-playing robots.
The event, which has been running since 1997, poses substantial challenges for roboticists. The contest includes contests for a number of different robot sizes, but each need to be capable of handling a ball, communicating with the teammates, and outmaneuvering opponents—all without any human intervention.
A video of the final match in the RoboCup’s Middle Size League, which pits two five-robot teams against each other in an indoor soccer match with a FIFA-approved soccer ball, shows the extraordinary strides they’ve made.
In it, a team constructed by the robotics team at the Netherlands’ Eindhoven University of Technology win the match 1-0 by passing, fighting for position and blocking goal shots—much like their human counterparts at the World Cup.
The RoboCup’s long term goal is to build bots that can beat human athletes by the year 2050, like when IBM’s Deep Blue chess computer beat reining grandmaster Gary Kasparov in 1997.