University sends soccer robots to World Cup

University of Auckland students are developing soccer-playing robots, including one that looks like a human.

University of Auckland students are developing soccer-playing robots, including one that looks like a human.

The footy-playing robots have been worked on for three years and are now going through their paces for a Robo-Soccer World Cup. The university department involved is the centre for image technology and research, a unit run by computer science and engineering staff.

“The Robo Cup is an international competition for universities. It’s an excellent research and teaching tool for people interested in robotics,” says computer science senior lecturer Jacky Baltes. This year’s competition is in Seattle in August.

The university has been competing since last year, Baltes says, and this year will be sending two teams. The All Bots use a global vision system, he says, so the camera is mounted on the ceiling, and the new team has small cameras mounted on each robot. They are controlled by computer.

While other robots can cost $US20,000, Baltes says the university’s machines only cost $300 as they are made from remote-controlled toy cars.

“It’s more difficult to control them, but we learn more about artificial intelligence. We want them to play soccer as well as a 14-year-old could if they were given a remote-controlled car and told to make it play football,” he says.

Baltes says in time the aim is for the models to become robots that can be used in urban search and rescue operations.

The university has just started work on building a humanoid robot using the same planning and control systems of the soccer playing robots.

“We have built it already and are trying to make it walk,” says Baltes.

It is 30cm tall, being largely a pair of legs, but eventually will gain a 20cm torso.

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