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. RoboCup Dreams Of Martian Games

by Hans-Arthur Marsiske
Bonn - Apr 11, 2002
How would robots on Mars spend their spare time? What would they do when all construction and maintenance work has been done, when all routines and sub-routines have been accomplished? They'll probably play soccer.

That's not as crazy as it may sound first. Actually, the soccer field is one of the most important testbeds for robots to develop co-operative skills and learn quick adaptation in a dynamically changing environment.

Since 1997 the International RoboCup Federation is organizing regular tournaments to let the different concepts in robotics and artificial intelligence compete with each other. The long-term goal of RoboCup is, to develop before the year 2050 humanoid robots that can beat the human soccer world champion.

RoboCup chairman, Hiroaki Kitano, has compared RoboCup to the Apollo project.

Like the landing of humans on the moon, he said, winning the soccer worldcup by robots would have no practical use in itself, but in the enormous amount of technological innovations and applications that will be initiated on the way to the ambitious goal.

This year's RoboCup season has been opened a few weeks ago with the Japan Spring Competitions that will be followed by the German Open the coming weekend, April 11-14. These local competitions are very important tests in the preparation for the world championship, June 19-25 in Fukuoka, Japan, and Busan, South Korea. Most teams only have one team of robots and therefore are not able to perform test games by themselves.

Of course, these limitations don't apply to the simulation league where autonomous software agents play on a simulated soccer field and the software of former champions is freely available to perform test games. Every team consists of eleven agents that are visualized by colored buttons on the screen. These games are very fast and already show a remarkable level of co-operation. While some teams try to directly implement soccer knowledge into the software code, others rely on efficient learning algorithms. The players of vice-champion „Karlsruhe Brainstormers" for instance discovered the technique of „Doppelpass" (one player passing to another who passes back immediately) by themselves, nobody programmed them to play this way.

At the RoboCup German Open the second largest number of teams, second only to Germany, comes from Iran, where the winning of the world championship in the mid-size league by an Iranian team in 1999 ignited a boom of RoboCup enthusiasm. The mid-size league is one of three leagues for real robots and arguably the most challenging one, since the robots have to be fully autonomous. In the other leagues they are allowed to rely on global vision (small-size league) or have to use a common platform (Sony legged robot league). The great mid-size champion is „CS Freiburg", who participated in four of altogether five world championships and won three times.

The games will be different this year, though, since the playing field has changed. There will be no more cushions on the sides. So, billiards-like tricks for which CS Freiburg has been famous won't be possible any more.

Robots that are going to succeed under these new conditions will need an excellent ability in self-location and ball control.

Another innovation that will be shown at RoboCup German Open is a table-soccer game which on one side is controlled by a computer. For the first time, this „Kickerroboter" gives the opportunity for a direct confrontation between human and robot. Although it still plays like a beginner, it's already hard to beat. With refined algorithms it even may challenge advanced human players within a few years.

But the real highlight of this year's RoboCup tournaments will be the introduction of the humanoid league at the world championship in Japan.

RoboCup chairman Kitano announced this already in 1999 as the first major milestone on the long path to the soccer worldcup in 2050. After demonstration games in recent years, humanoids now really compete with each other. The tasks are still comparably simple: They consist of solo performances where the robots have to show how they walk and shoot the ball, penalty shoots against other robots, and possibly some real games with one, two, or even three robots per team.

The entertainment value of these games will still be light-years away from the excitement and drama of a real soccer game. But on a symbolic level they have a great significance. They show the clear determination to follow an ambitious goal that can only be realized by next generations of scientists and engineers. The first five RoboCup years now appear as a kind of warming up, while kickerroboter and humanoids league prove that RoboCuppers take their goal of challenging human soccer players quite seriously. So, in a sense this year shows the real kick-off of the fifty-year competition. And, as some rumours say, the Japanese seem to be determined to underscore this by letting a humanoid robot for the first time kick off the official (human) soccer worldcup.

Hans-Arthur Marsiske is a freelance science writer based in Germany.

RoboCup German Open http://www.robocup-german-open.de Kickerroboter http://www.informatik.uni-freiburg.de/~kiro RoboCup World Championship

Future Martian Robots Trial Out In RoboCup Games by Hans-Arthur Marsiske http://www.hamarsiske.de How would robots on Mars spend their spare time? What would they do when all construction and maintenance work has been done, when all routines and sub-routines have been accomplished? They'll probably play soccer.

That's not as crazy as it may sound first. Actually, the soccer field is one of the most important testbeds for robots to develop co-operative skills and learn quick adaptation in a dynamically changing environment.

Since 1997 the International RoboCup Federation is organizing regular tournaments to let the different concepts in robotics and artificial intelligence compete with each other. The long-term goal of RoboCup is, to develop before the year 2050 humanoid robots that can beat the human soccer world champion.

RoboCup chairman, Hiroaki Kitano, has compared RoboCup to the Apollo project.

Like the landing of humans on the moon, he said, winning the soccer worldcup by robots would have no practical use in itself, but in the enormous amount of technological innovations and applications that will be initiated on the way to the ambitious goal.

This year's RoboCup season has been opened a few weeks ago with the Japan Spring Competitions that will be followed by the German Open the coming weekend, April 11-14. These local competitions are very important tests in the preparation for the world championship, June 19-25 in Fukuoka, Japan, and Busan, South Korea. Most teams only have one team of robots and therefore are not able to perform test games by themselves.

Of course, these limitations don't apply to the simulation league where autonomous software agents play on a simulated soccer field and the software of former champions is freely available to perform test games. Every team consists of eleven agents that are visualized by colored buttons on the screen. These games are very fast and already show a remarkable level of co-operation. While some teams try to directly implement soccer knowledge into the software code, others rely on efficient learning algorithms. The players of vice-champion „Karlsruhe Brainstormers" for instance discovered the technique of „Doppelpass" (one player passing to another who passes back immediately) by themselves, nobody programmed them to play this way.

At the RoboCup German Open the second largest number of teams, second only to Germany, comes from Iran, where the winning of the world championship in the mid-size league by an Iranian team in 1999 ignited a boom of RoboCup enthusiasm. The mid-size league is one of three leagues for real robots and arguably the most challenging one, since the robots have to be fully autonomous. In the other leagues they are allowed to rely on global vision (small-size league) or have to use a common platform (Sony legged robot league). The great mid-size champion is „CS Freiburg", who participated in four of altogether five world championships and won three times.

The games will be different this year, though, since the playing field has changed. There will be no more cushions on the sides. So, billiards-like tricks for which CS Freiburg has been famous won't be possible any more.

Robots that are going to succeed under these new conditions will need an excellent ability in self-location and ball control.

Another innovation that will be shown at RoboCup German Open is a table-soccer game which on one side is controlled by a computer. For the first time, this „Kickerroboter" gives the opportunity for a direct confrontation between human and robot. Although it still plays like a beginner, it's already hard to beat. With refined algorithms it even may challenge advanced human players within a few years.

But the real highlight of this year's RoboCup tournaments will be the introduction of the humanoid league at the world championship in Japan.

RoboCup chairman Kitano announced this already in 1999 as the first major milestone on the long path to the soccer worldcup in 2050. After demonstration games in recent years, humanoids now really compete with each other. The tasks are still comparably simple: They consist of solo performances where the robots have to show how they walk and shoot the ball, penalty shoots against other robots, and possibly some real games with one, two, or even three robots per team.

The entertainment value of these games will still be light-years away from the excitement and drama of a real soccer game. But on a symbolic level they have a great significance. They show the clear determination to follow an ambitious goal that can only be realized by next generations of scientists and engineers. The first five RoboCup years now appear as a kind of warming up, while kickerroboter and humanoids league prove that RoboCuppers take their goal of challenging human soccer players quite seriously. So, in a sense this year shows the real kick-off of the fifty-year competition. And, as some rumours say, the Japanese seem to be determined to underscore this by letting a humanoid robot for the first time kick off the official (human) soccer worldcup.

Hans-Arthur Marsiske is a freelance science writer based in Germany.

RoboCup German Open http://www.robocup-german-open.de Kickerroboter http://www.informatik.uni-freiburg.de/~kiro RoboCup World Championship hhhFuture Martian Robots Trial Out In RoboCup Games by Hans-Arthur Marsiske http://www.hamarsiske.de How would robots on Mars spend their spare time? What would they do when all construction and maintenance work has been done, when all routines and sub-routines have been accomplished? They'll probably play soccer.

That's not as crazy as it may sound first. Actually, the soccer field is one of the most important testbeds for robots to develop co-operative skills and learn quick adaptation in a dynamically changing environment.

Since 1997 the International RoboCup Federation is organizing regular tournaments to let the different concepts in robotics and artificial intelligence compete with each other. The long-term goal of RoboCup is, to develop before the year 2050 humanoid robots that can beat the human soccer world champion.

RoboCup chairman, Hiroaki Kitano, has compared RoboCup to the Apollo project.

Like the landing of humans on the moon, he said, winning the soccer worldcup by robots would have no practical use in itself, but in the enormous amount of technological innovations and applications that will be initiated on the way to the ambitious goal.

This year's RoboCup season has been opened a few weeks ago with the Japan Spring Competitions that will be followed by the German Open the coming weekend, April 11-14. These local competitions are very important tests in the preparation for the world championship, June 19-25 in Fukuoka, Japan, and Busan, South Korea. Most teams only have one team of robots and therefore are not able to perform test games by themselves.

Of course, these limitations don't apply to the simulation league where autonomous software agents play on a simulated soccer field and the software of former champions is freely available to perform test games. Every team consists of eleven agents that are visualized by colored buttons on the screen. These games are very fast and already show a remarkable level of co-operation. While some teams try to directly implement soccer knowledge into the software code, others rely on efficient learning algorithms. The players of vice-champion „Karlsruhe Brainstormers" for instance discovered the technique of „Doppelpass" (one player passing to another who passes back immediately) by themselves, nobody programmed them to play this way.

At the RoboCup German Open the second largest number of teams, second only to Germany, comes from Iran, where the winning of the world championship in the mid-size league by an Iranian team in 1999 ignited a boom of RoboCup enthusiasm. The mid-size league is one of three leagues for real robots and arguably the most challenging one, since the robots have to be fully autonomous. In the other leagues they are allowed to rely on global vision (small-size league) or have to use a common platform (Sony legged robot league). The great mid-size champion is „CS Freiburg", who participated in four of altogether five world championships and won three times.

The games will be different this year, though, since the playing field has changed. There will be no more cushions on the sides. So, billiards-like tricks for which CS Freiburg has been famous won't be possible any more.

Robots that are going to succeed under these new conditions will need an excellent ability in self-location and ball control.

Another innovation that will be shown at RoboCup German Open is a table-soccer game which on one side is controlled by a computer. For the first time, this „Kickerroboter" gives the opportunity for a direct confrontation between human and robot. Although it still plays like a beginner, it's already hard to beat. With refined algorithms it even may challenge advanced human players within a few years.

But the real highlight of this year's RoboCup tournaments will be the introduction of the humanoid league at the world championship in Japan.

RoboCup chairman Kitano announced this already in 1999 as the first major milestone on the long path to the soccer worldcup in 2050. After demonstration games in recent years, humanoids now really compete with each other. The tasks are still comparably simple: They consist of solo performances where the robots have to show how they walk and shoot the ball, penalty shoots against other robots, and possibly some real games with one, two, or even three robots per team.

The entertainment value of these games will still be light-years away from the excitement and drama of a real soccer game. But on a symbolic level they have a great significance. They show the clear determination to follow an ambitious goal that can only be realized by next generations of scientists and engineers. The first five RoboCup years now appear as a kind of warming up, while kickerroboter and humanoids league prove that RoboCuppers take their goal of challenging human soccer players quite seriously. So, in a sense this year shows the real kick-off of the fifty-year competition. And, as some rumours say, the Japanese seem to be determined to underscore this by letting a humanoid robot for the first time kick off the official (human) soccer worldcup.

Hans-Arthur Marsiske is a freelance science writer based in Germany.

RoboCup German Open http://www.robocup-german-open.de Kickerroboter http://www.informatik.uni-freiburg.de/~kiro RoboCup World Championship

Future Martian Robots Trial Out In RoboCup Games by Hans-Arthur Marsiske http://www.hamarsiske.de How would robots on Mars spend their spare time? What would they do when all construction and maintenance work has been done, when all routines and sub-routines have been accomplished? They'll probably play soccer.

That's not as crazy as it may sound first. Actually, the soccer field is one of the most important testbeds for robots to develop co-operative skills and learn quick adaptation in a dynamically changing environment.

Since 1997 the International RoboCup Federation is organizing regular tournaments to let the different concepts in robotics and artificial intelligence compete with each other. The long-term goal of RoboCup is, to develop before the year 2050 humanoid robots that can beat the human soccer world champion.

RoboCup chairman, Hiroaki Kitano, has compared RoboCup to the Apollo project.

Like the landing of humans on the moon, he said, winning the soccer worldcup by robots would have no practical use in itself, but in the enormous amount of technological innovations and applications that will be initiated on the way to the ambitious goal.

This year's RoboCup season has been opened a few weeks ago with the Japan Spring Competitions that will be followed by the German Open the coming weekend, April 11-14. These local competitions are very important tests in the preparation for the world championship, June 19-25 in Fukuoka, Japan, and Busan, South Korea. Most teams only have one team of robots and therefore are not able to perform test games by themselves.

Of course, these limitations don't apply to the simulation league where autonomous software agents play on a simulated soccer field and the software of former champions is freely available to perform test games. Every team consists of eleven agents that are visualized by colored buttons on the screen. These games are very fast and already show a remarkable level of co-operation. While some teams try to directly implement soccer knowledge into the software code, others rely on efficient learning algorithms. The players of vice-champion „Karlsruhe Brainstormers" for instance discovered the technique of „Doppelpass" (one player passing to another who passes back immediately) by themselves, nobody programmed them to play this way.

At the RoboCup German Open the second largest number of teams, second only to Germany, comes from Iran, where the winning of the world championship in the mid-size league by an Iranian team in 1999 ignited a boom of RoboCup enthusiasm. The mid-size league is one of three leagues for real robots and arguably the most challenging one, since the robots have to be fully autonomous. In the other leagues they are allowed to rely on global vision (small-size league) or have to use a common platform (Sony legged robot league). The great mid-size champion is „CS Freiburg", who participated in four of altogether five world championships and won three times.

The games will be different this year, though, since the playing field has changed. There will be no more cushions on the sides. So, billiards-like tricks for which CS Freiburg has been famous won't be possible any more.

Robots that are going to succeed under these new conditions will need an excellent ability in self-location and ball control.

Another innovation that will be shown at RoboCup German Open is a table-soccer game which on one side is controlled by a computer. For the first time, this „Kickerroboter" gives the opportunity for a direct confrontation between human and robot. Although it still plays like a beginner, it's already hard to beat. With refined algorithms it even may challenge advanced human players within a few years.

But the real highlight of this year's RoboCup tournaments will be the introduction of the humanoid league at the world championship in Japan.

RoboCup chairman Kitano announced this already in 1999 as the first major milestone on the long path to the soccer worldcup in 2050. After demonstration games in recent years, humanoids now really compete with each other. The tasks are still comparably simple: They consist of solo performances where the robots have to show how they walk and shoot the ball, penalty shoots against other robots, and possibly some real games with one, two, or even three robots per team.

The entertainment value of these games will still be light-years away from the excitement and drama of a real soccer game. But on a symbolic level they have a great significance. They show the clear determination to follow an ambitious goal that can only be realized by next generations of scientists and engineers. The first five RoboCup years now appear as a kind of warming up, while kickerroboter and humanoids league prove that RoboCuppers take their goal of challenging human soccer players quite seriously. So, in a sense this year shows the real kick-off of the fifty-year competition. And, as some rumours say, the Japanese seem to be determined to underscore this by letting a humanoid robot for the first time kick off the official (human) soccer worldcup.

Hans-Arthur Marsiske is a science writer based in Germany.

Related Links
RoboCup German Open
Kickerroboter
RoboCup World Championship
International RoboCup Federation
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