There is a robot soccer tournament called the RoboCup


Stephen McGill, a PhD candidate, works with a RoboCup entree at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia this week. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Do you like soccer? Do you have World Cup Fever? Do you want to watch robots playing soccer? If so, this is the post for you.

Robots from dozens of countries will gather later this month in Brazil to participate in a robot soccer tournament known as the RoboCup (!). I’m going to repeat that to let it marinate for a moment: It is a robot soccer tournament, and it is called the RoboCup.

This tournament was founded in 1997 with the stated goal of developing a robot soccer team that can beat the human World Cup champions by 2050. (The first RoboCup was held shortly after the supercomputer Deep Blue defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov, because, as the human historians will eventually explain, the robot uprising began on multiple distinct-but-parallel fronts.)

Dan Lee, an engineering professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Associated Press that more than a decade ago, the robots were not really great at soccer.

“They would all cluster together,” he told the AP. “Whoever got the ball would have a hard time figuring out which way to kick the ball.”

Now, the robots are better and can carry out some strategies during the soccer matches, Lee said.

The robots will compete in a game with the same rules as any other soccer game (which means goals, fouls, corner kicks and so on), and they must operate independently and cannot be remotely-controlled. About 4,000 engineers and scientists from about 45 countries are going to participate in this year’s RoboCup.

Is there video footage showing the little robots kicking little soccer balls? Of course there is, of course there is going to be video. Enjoy watching the video while the little robots gradually learn lessons about teamwork and coordination from playing soccer, lessons they will surely not use to overtake humanity in a slow, methodical campaign that may or may not end with penalty kicks:

This year’s RoboCup takes place from July 19 to 25 in João Pessoa.

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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