We here at OWLconnected love robots. Robots that dance. Robots that are squishy. Even robots that "drive" you crazy. That's why we had our eyes on Beijing, China this past weekend where the 2016 World Robot Conference was being held. This massive gathering was a chance for inventors and designers to show off everything robotic. And did they ever show off! The variety of bots on display was really something.
There were robot planes and drones.
There was Jiajia, a human-like droid who can have conversations with people.
And then, there was the best thing of all. Robot soccer.
Yep, you're not just seeing things. Those are robots kicking around a ball, trying to score goals on an opponent's goal. What's most impressive about all of this is that the robots are autonomous. In other words, that's not remote control that you're seeing there. Those robots are each analyzing the situation before them and working together to beat their robot opponents. They use information that they gather with their sensors to figure out where the ball is. And they communicate with each other to understand which of them is in the best position to get to the ball.
In Beijing, teams were participating in the Robocup Challenge. The final match of the tournament was played between Austin Villa, an American team, and Runswift, a team from Australia. Austin Villa won 7–3 thanks to great team play and a little bit of luck. One of the Runswift robots stopped working right at the start of the match!
Robots vs. humans?
All in all, it was an exciting match, but this tournament was just an appetizer. The main event is the Robocup itself, which has been happening every summer since 1997. The next one will happen in 2017 in Nagoya, Japan. In past years, up to 500 teams from 45 countries have squared off for the title of best robot soccer team in the world. But ultimately, the goals of the Robocup are much higher. According to their website, the dream is that: "By the middle of the 21st century [about 2050], a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players shall win a soccer game, complying with the official rules of FIFA, against the winner of the most recent World Cup."
Are they there yet? Not even close. But in the world of robotics, things can happen really fast. Would you want to watch a soccer match between robots and humans? For now, sit back and watch the funniest falls and best goals from last summer's Robocup in Leipzig, Germany. GOOOAAALLLL!