Watch out Messi, here come the foot­ballers at RoboCup

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

With steely fo­cus, player num­ber 3 scored a stun­ning open­ing goal in the first few min­utes of the high­stakes foot­ball match be­tween a dom­i­nant Bordeaux and their plucky Chi­nese op­po­nents.

But as the crowds cheered, the pint-sized player, known as Arya, showed none of the cus­tom­ary swag­ger of tri­umphant strik­ers. In fact, ro­bot num­ber 3 and its team­mates showed no emo­tion at all as they con­tin­ued to ex­ter­mi­nate their ri­vals’ hopes of vic­tory at RoboCup 2017 in Ja­pan. The game, which Bordeaux won 4-0, was one of the grip­ping fi­nal matches in a four-day event that saw about 3,000 re­searchers and en­gi­neer­ing stu­dents from 40 coun­tries dis­play­ing the prow­ess of their lat­est ro­botic in­ven­tions on the foot­ball pitch.

Rang­ing in de­sign from hu­manoids with hu­man faces to more skele­tal con­trap­tions, the ro­bots were pro­grammed to be self-di­rected and played strate­gi­cally with­out be­ing given in­struc­tions. The ro­bots “see” us­ing a cam­era in­stalled in their heads, while in­stalled with ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI) to rec­og­nize the spac­ing and ob­jects in the sight. The an­nual cham­pi­onship, which was held in the cen­tral Ja­panese city of Nagoya, started 20 years ago when a com­puter beat the top hu­man player in chess, “a big event which prompted com­puter en­gi­neers to set the next goal”, said It­suki Noda, the pres­i­dent of the RoboCup Fed­er­a­tion. “Un­like chess, foot­ball play­ers have to read con­stantly chang­ing sit­u­a­tions and choose the best move­ments while com­pet­ing against ri­vals,” he said. “Also, foot­ball re­quires very good team­work, which was a com­pletely un­re­searched area for com­puter en­gi­neers. To solve the rid­dle, we chose soc­cer for the ro­bots’ next chal­lenge.” Tech­nolo­gies have since ad­vanced so that ro­bots can make au­tonomous judg­ments and co­op­er­ate with oth­ers, said Noda, also the prin­ci­pal re­search man­ager at Ja­pan’s Na­tional In­sti­tute of Ad­vanced In­dus­trial Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy.

That abil­ity to play as a team was the “win­ning fac­tor” in Bordeaux Uni­ver­sity’s tri­umph, ac­cord­ing to as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor Olivier Ly, who acted as coach and po­si­tioned his team’s play­ers. “We de­vel­oped lots of fea­tures on the team play... The ro­bots play to­gether, try to do some passes,” he said. The Chi­nese team de­ployed highly mo­bile ro­bots that, un­af­flicted by in­jury con­cerns, were quick to bounce back to their feet af­ter fall­ing over. But it was not enough to match the French team. As the match ended and the hu­mans cel­e­brated, the life­less ro­bot play­ers were qui­etly packed away into suit­cases. —AFP

Hu­manoids from France’s Bordeaux Uni­ver­sity (cen­ter and right) fight for the ball with a mem­ber of the Chi­nese team dur­ing their kid-size an­droid foot­ball tour­na­ment fi­nal at the RoboCup 2017.

Mem­bers of France’s Bordeaux Uni­ver­sity (left in black) cel­e­brate their vic­tory in the kid-size an­droid foot­ball tour­na­ment fi­nal against China at the RoboCup 2017 in Nagoya, Aichi pre­fec­ture yes­ter­day. — AFP photos

Ro­bots fight for the ball dur­ing their foot­ball match in the stan­dard plat­form league tour­na­ment at the RoboCup 2017.

Ro­bots fight for the ball dur­ing their foot­ball match in the stan­dard plat­form league tour­na­ment.

Ro­bots take part in an adult-size cat­e­gory foot­ball match.

A hu­manoid from the Chi­nese team (left) takes part in the fi­nal of the kid­size an­droid foot­ball tour­na­ment against France’s Bordeaux Uni­ver­sity.

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