A football game between robots.
To be more precise, a football game between teams of humanoid robots that battle it out for top place.
It may seem absurd but the RoboCup is a non-profit event founded in 1997 by a group of Japanese geeks who managed to create a competition between artificial intelligence prototypes, and put them to the test across multiple operational fields.
The competition isn’t focused only on football. The RoboCup is divided into RoboCup Soccer (with different internal formats such as small-size robots up to the humanoid league), RoboCup Rescue, a competition that aims to showcase advanced robotic capabilities for emergency responders, and RoboCup Home, which aims to develop service and assistive robot technology with high relevance for future personal domestic applications and human interaction. The entire project is slowly expanding, but for now lets linger on its “historic” milestones.
This year, the Adult Size challenge, which involved two robots competing against one another in shooting and goalkeeping, was won by the United States of America with THORwin, developed by students from the University of Pennsylvania.
The final score was 5-4, a very close match indeed. THORwin triumphed over Baset Pazhuh Tehran from Iran, the initial favourite due to his previously unbeatable reputation.
A real battle between robots on a football field, the RoboCup is a smart way to test and overcome current limitations of prototypes, and then set new objectives that combine advanced computer science and entertainment.
The ultimate goal of the RoboCup is slightly utopian, but ambitious nonetheless: to form a team of robots by 2050 that can challenge and beat a world champion team made up of real human players.