Soccer Robots Score on Humans at RoboCup: GOOOOOOAL!

This is probably the most exciting 10 seconds of robot soccer you've ever seen

2 min read
Soccer Robots Score on Humans at RoboCup: GOOOOOOAL!

We posted a lot of footage from RoboCup 2014 last Friday, but we didn't post any footage from the final game in the tournament, where the winning mid-size robot team plays against a bunch of not-entirely inept humans. Arguably, this is the most exciting game of all, because it gives a sense of what the current state-of-the-art in robotic soccer is, and how it stacks up to a team of moderately talented squishy bipeds.

We're still waiting on the entire game to be posted, but in the meantime, this is incredibly awesome:


This is not the first time robots score against humans in RoboCup. But the key thing here is that the goals scored by robots are getting better because the robots are getting better. In fact, not to get all soccer-y on you, this play was very far from dumb luck: Tech United Eindhoven's robots made a pass, the striker robot looked at the goal and saw a defender in the way, decided not to shoot, made a pass instead, and the wing robot put it right into the side of the goal. Most of the humans weren't particularly aggressive, but the defender dude looked like he was actually trying pretty hard there, and he couldn't stop the attack.

RoboCup's goal is to make this work with humanoid robots, but I'm not sure what the point is of doing that, besides that it would give the robots artificial ankles to grab after they fall over in dramatic fashion. But seriously, I could imagine a team of these mid-size robots potentially defeating a determined team of humans on a small field within the next decade.

To get an idea of how much progress has been made in RoboCup midsize over the last several years, here's a bunch of vids that we found on YouTube of midsize robots vs. humans matches from RoboCups past (the robots vs. humans has become a tradition). We couldn't find all of them, so if you have better footage of these games, definitely let us know.

RoboCup 2007


RoboCup 2009


RoboCup 2010


RoboCup 2011


RoboCup 2012


[ RoboCup 2014 ] via [ Tech United ]

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Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman

“I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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