Kicking off in the German city of Leipzig, tomorrow marks the start of the 2016 RoboCup challenge, the world’s most prominent and diverse competition for intelligent robots. The world cup of robotics brings together a host of inter-disciplinary problems, from robotics and artificial intelligence, right the way through to electrical and mechanical engineering, as teams battle it out to take home the most prestigious prize in robotic football.
The ultimate vision of the RoboCup Federation is to see autonomous, humanoid robots successfully competing against their human counterparts in football matches by 2050. In the last few years however, additional disciplines have been added alongside the football matches, driving research into the use of intelligent robots in rescue missions, around the house, and in industrial production.
The 20th annual RoboCup tournament will run from 30 June to 4 July, and will see more than 500 teams, made up of 3,500 individual participants from 40 countries, competing for the top prize.
Joining them again this year for the twelfth time since their 2003 debut will be the Bold Hearts, of the University of Hertfordshire. Competing in the ‘kid-size’ humanoid league, the team will be showcasing the talents of their ‘DARwIn OP’ robots, recently exhibited at the QEPrize Nominations Launch Party at the Design Museum in London. Fresh from a win at the Robocup Iran Open earlier this year, the Bold Hearts have arrived in Leipzig with the biggest team to date, ready to take on the world champions.
Team founder, Dr Daniel Polani, said: “The team is busy hacking away, preparing for the astroturf grass, white goals and, particularly difficult, the almost completely white ball; something that is very difficult for the robots to recognize. Walking and seeing will be a massive challenge for the robots and other top teams are, like us, trying to get their gear into shape. The new robots, which we had planned to 3D-print, are unfortunately not ready for the current year. So, the team has had just two days to prepare for the first games, using last year’s robots.
“Everybody is working under high pressure to get a good starting point early in the games, but it will be a tough spot for our small robots, as our competitors’ robots have considerably improved.”
Off the football field, Team Hector from the Technische Universität Darmstadt in Germany, will be throwing themselves into a rescue mission, putting their robots through their paces in the RoboCup Rescue league. Speaking before the competition, Team Hector said: “The objective of this league is to search for buried victims in simulated disaster scenarios- an exciting task, since these technologies are supposed to be used in real life very soon. Out autonomous rescue robots already achieved some successin this area, and we have won the ‘Best in Class Autonomy’ award in every one of the last four years. In 2014, we were the first team with a focus on autonomy that won the world championship title in Brazil. Therefore we will work hard to again achieve a top ranking in the ‘home game’ in Leipzig. We are excited about RoboCup because it gives us an opportunity to test our robots at a world class level.”
Follow all the action of the RoboCup 2016 over the next week at robocup2016.org.