Robots Want To Compete In the 2050 World Cup

When I was younger I played soccer this time of year, every year. One of my earliest memories of the sport was being confined to playing indoors, where my brother and I shared a similar disdain for the sealed environment which was that, "Indoor soccer...

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Sep 12 2012, 2:00pm

When I was younger, I played soccer every fall. It would probably be weird if I told my parents, “I don’t want to this year.” Or at least I thought so until I was 15 and finally threw in the towel. (Time to pursue being in bands and pining harder for girls.) Still, one sticky memory of the sport from my earliest days of AYSO was being sequestered to play indoors. My brother and I shared a similar disdain for the enclosed environment, “Indoor soccer sucks. Everybody wins; there’s no point.”

When the RoboCup, an annual soccer match between robots and their creators is held indoors, it doesn’t suck. The Verge’s documentary (above) captures some richly-spirited nerds going deep with Robotic designs; creating full ensembles of C-3PO’s-turned-shittiest-soccer-teams ever. While it’s fun to watch their creations tumble and fall, the players accept failure quite gracefully. (Well all remember how mortified Honda’s team was when ASMIO took that dreadful misstep at a demonstration event.) RoboCup might be Roboteam veruss Roboteam, but the key ambition of this event is rather simple, and progress-oriented:

When established in 1997, the original mission was to field a team of robots capable of winning against the human soccer World Cup champions by 2050. While that mission remains, RoboCup has since expanded into other relevant application domains based on the needs of modern society. Today, RoboCup covers the following themes:

  • RoboCupSoccer: creating teams of fully autonomous, cooperative robots that exhibit advanced competitive behaviors and strategies;
  • RoboCupRescue: assisting emergency responders to save people and perform hazardous tasks with highly mobile, dexterous and semi-autonomous robots capable of mapping and negotiating complex environments;
  • RoboCup@Home: helping people in their daily lives at home and in public with autonomous and naturally interactive assistant robots;
  • RoboCupJunior: motivating young people to learn skills and knowledge necessary in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as well as to foster their soft skills through participating in the creative process of building and programming autonomous robots.

Imagining a field full of human athletes versus these nerd’s robots has me returning to the same possible outcome again and again in my head: “Blunt force trauma.” I keep picturing awful shin-injuries of a the men on a human team facing off with the creations yet to be born from the RoboCup. I guess the nerds have their work cut out for them. But here’s an insight, perhaps the makers of Realdolls will get involved in the coming years — that synthetic flesh ought to soften a the blow.

Follow Dan on Twitter: @danstuckey