The most exciting soccer tournament of the summer wasn’t the Women’s World Cup, or the Copa America, or even the International Champions Cup. It was RoboCup 2015.
The annual robotics summit and competition was held in Hefei, China last week and featured teams of students and researchers from around the world. While the event does feature symposia and presentations from engineers and academics discussing the current state of robotics technology, the main focus was (rightfully) on the soccer tournament.
The competition featured several divisions based on various types of robot. A hometown side, Team Water from the Beijing Information Science & Technology University, won the middle division (wheeled robots) after a 4-1 rout of a team from the University of Eindhoven. In the child-size division, Japan’s Chiba Institute of Technology beat Chinese side Zhejian University 1-0. The Iranian Team Parand took home silverware in the teen-size division after a 2-1 win over HuroEvolution from Germany, and a unified American team THORwIn (featuring engineers from UPenn and UCLA) beat another Iranian side Baset 5-4 on penalties.
But the big winners- apart from science- were the Australians, where the University of New South Wales came up big against German juggernauts B-Human to be crowned Standard League champions.
The goal of the annual conference and competition is to develop robots who can meaningfully compete with human opponents. By the middle of this century, RoboCup hopes to produce a team of fully autonomous robots that could play a FIFA-sanctioned game against the winners of the most recent World Cup— and win. We all know that robots are coming for our jobs;, but the job security of professional footballers never really seemed in doubt. Until now.