Why Soccer to Boost the Development of Robotics?

2013 Stanley Cup, Confederation Cup and RoboCup Runneth Over

By Joe Feeley

Since the end of June, Lord Stanley's Cup has been the big thing here in Chicago, as the region celebrates its hawkey team's NHL championship.

While the hockey finals were concluding, I watched some of the Confederation Cup, in which Brazil let the football (soccer) world know it might be better than anyone expects in the 2014 World Cup by putting a smackdown on World Number 1 Spain in the final game.

SEE ALSO: Award-Winning Robot Works Safely With Humans

But, then I found out that RoboCup 2013 had just concluded in Eindhoven, Holland. How did we miss that? Well, it's not exactly a front-page news event, but it looks like it was highly entertaining.

The founding organization (robocup.org) says the main focus of competitions is soccer, "where the research goals concern cooperative multi-robot and multi-agent systems in dynamic adversarial environments. All robots are fully autonomous."

Why soccer to boost the development of robotics? The organization says that since soccer is popular worldwide, these competitions get a lot of attention. In addition, "Playing soccer with robots is a huge challenge on the field of software and mechatronics. Moreover, the element of competition motivates the entire team, so they spend a large part of their spare time planning, designing and improving the robots."

The actual goal of robocup.org is to field, by 2050, a team of autonomous humanoid robot soccer players, play a match that fully complies with the rules of international governing body FIFA, and defeat that era's World Cup winner.

They still have a ways to go. A recurrent theme of the matches might be: "He shoots. He scores. He falls over." Not necessarily in that order, either. If you're interested in some video and images of the matches, I posted a note in Machine Builder Forum with some links.

Next, a note to those of you who read this, and discover you still can vote in this year's Readers' Choice Award balloting. Voting ends at the end of July, so if it's not too late, have at it. Eligible voters, meaning machine builders and their system integrators, would have received an email with a ballot link in early June. Let's presume you missed it, deleted it, or otherwise can't find it. Out of luck? Nope. Email me, give me a call, assure me you're not an automation vendor, and we'll send you the ballot link. Encourage fellow builders to do the same, since a bigger sample is always more representative of group sentiment.

Finally, there's been a thread growing in LinkedIn's Automation & Control Engineering group about Microsoft's choice to end its support for XP in 2014. The seed for this discussion was planted by CCS (www.ccs-inc.com), an industrial computer supplier with a vested interest in all this, but you PC-based people might want to scroll through it. There are lots of XP-based machine control systems out there, and you'll find some of your contemporaries weighing in on the subject.

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