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Heads Up, World Cup Teams: The Robots are Coming


Nao, one of the University of Pennsylvania's entries in the RoboCup international robot soccer tournament. work with one of their RoboCup entries known as Nao at the school in in Philadelphia.

The goal of the RoboCup, an international robot soccer tournament taking place in Brazil on the heels of the World Cup, is to create a robot soccer team that can defeat the human World Cup champions by 2050.

Credit: Matt Rourke/Associated Press

RoboCup, an international robot soccer tournament that takes place in Brazil immediately following the World Cup, aims to create a robot soccer team that can defeat the human World Cup champions by 2050.

"It's hard to predict what will happen in 2050, but we are on the right path," says event co-founder and Carnegie Mellon University professor Manuela Veloso.

A week after the World Cup title game, teams from 45 countries will face off at RoboCup. The "players" compete in size-based divisions on miniature indoor fields. The competition is about teaching fully autonomous robots to make quick, smart decisions while working together in a changing environment.

University of Pennsylvania (Penn) professor Dan Lee says the algorithms developed for use in RoboCup also could be used in self-driving cars or delivery drones. Lee has led Penn's RoboCup team since 2002, and notes that when he started, "the games resembled those played by five-year-old children. Whoever got the ball would have a hard time figuring out which way to kick the ball." However, Lee says the technology has progressed a lot since then and now it is similar to watching 10-year-olds play.

Organizers make the game more difficult every year by changing parameters such as field size or the number of players.

From Associated Press
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