Now in its 18th year, the RoboCup is an annual robotics competition that pairs teams of bots against each other to compete in the game of soccer. As previously discussed in Bits & Pieces, the ultimate goal of the tournament is to develop a robotic humanoid soccer-playing robot by the year 2050. And from the looks of the GIF below, we may be closer than ever before.
In what may be perhaps the most exciting game each year, RoboCup features a robot-on-human matchup to give a sense of what the current state-of-the-art in robotic soccer truly is, and how it stacks up to a team of moderately-talented humans. Sure enough, every once in a while, the robots score a goal on the humans, just as they did this year in the GIF below.
[T]his play was very far from dumb luck: Tech United Eindhoven’s robots made a pass, the striker robot looked at the goal and saw a defender in the way, decided not to shoot, made a pass instead, and the wing robot put it right into the side of the goal. Most of the humans weren’t particularly aggressive, but the defender dude looked like he was actually trying pretty hard there, and he couldn’t stop the attack.
Though this may not be the first time robots have gone on the scoreboard against humans in RoboCup, it is imperative to note that the goals are getting much more impressive because the robots are indeed getting better. So just how close are we before a team of microcontroller-powered creations can defeat a team comprised of flesh-and-blood Beckhams, Messis and Howards? As IEEE Spectrum sees it, these mid-size robots could be potentially defeating a determined team of humans on a small field within the next decade.