PORTLAND, Ore. Soccer-playing robots are warming up for the RoboCup 2008 tournament this weekend in Suzhou, China. Over 2,000 researchers from 35 countries have entered their robots in the competition, which also includes a search-and-rescue competition.
Virginia Tech's enlisted 15 students to build and program the latest incarnation of its Darwin robot to compete in the robotic soccer tournament. The team also enlisted engineers at nearby TORC Technologies LLC (Blacksburg, Va.), which specializes in autonomous robotics. TORC's entry won third place in last year's Urban Challenge robotic automobile contest sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency.
"Our newest Darwin III' series humanoid robots are faster, stronger, and much, much smarter than last year," said professor Dennis Hong, director of Viginia Tech's Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory . "We believe that they will perform well" at RoboCup 2008.
| Virginia Tech's Darwin robot team competes this weekend in RoboCup 2008 in Suzhou, China.|
Up to 440 other robot teams will be competeing in RoboCup 2008.
RoboCup's goal is to encourage development of a team of fully autonomous humanoid robots capable of defeating a championship soccer team by 2050. Since the first competition in 1997, the games have inched closer toward that goal. Last year, Osaka University and the University of Freiburg in Germany took first place in the humanoid leagues.
Four robot competitions will be held this year: humanoid, standard, middle and small categories. The Humanoid League competition will feature fully autonomous robots built and programmed by university students. Although robots must meet certain standards like humnoid-shape, each robots appearance is unique. Humanoid robots must be able to locate the ball and field boundaries as well as maintain their balance while running, walking and kicking a ball.
In the Standard Platform League, contestants concentrate on crafting algorithms since robot players are the same for all entrants. The RoboCup committee selected a new standard robot--the Aldebaran Nao instead of the Sony AIBO. Nao's advantage is that it is a humanoid--standing upright on two legs--rather than the four "legged AIBO, which resembles a robotic dog.
Simulation league, entrants will also download software that recreates a soccer field on a computer screen. By programming the robots with their own algorithms, teams will be able to compete while watching on a display.
The Robot Rescue league also includes a simulation contest in addition to a robot search-and-rescue competition. Others include a RoboCup@Home award for the robot that enhances man-machine interactions in applications that assist humans.
Also this year, a RoboCupJunior award will go to the primary or secondary school entrant designing the best method for sharing ideas and creating a learning experience.