By Joseph Campbell
BEIJING (Reuters) – An American team of robots defeated an Australian rival in soccer on Monday to win the RoboCup Challenge as technical problems plagued the Australian side.
The University of Texas at Austin’s Austin Villa beat the University of New South Wales’ Runswift 7-3 during China’s 2016 World Robot Conference
UNSW’s Jeremy Collette bemoaned the glitches that hampered Runswift. “We’ve been using that robot for three or four days straight, and just before the finals, it stops,” said Collette. “Then we had another problem with another robot, which is kind of like a perfect storm for us.”
Robot soccer matches have been played since the mid-1990s, and this competition used Nao robots, human-shaped robots about 23 inches (58 cm) tall developed by French company Aldebaran Robotics.
Programmed by advanced programming students at the universities, the robots exchanged information wirelessly and “bet” on which of their teammates would reach the ball first.
“The robots are telling each other where they believe the ball is, where they believe that they are on the field, if they’ve fallen down or not, and then they’re also to decide who goes for the ball,” explained University of Texas at Austin student Josiah Hanna.
Monday’s match drew a large crowd of spectators.
“I think these robots are able to move quite flexibly, and this is a pleasant surprise,” said Sun Qiong, who brought her son to watch the match.
(Reporting by Joseph Campbell in Beijing; Writing by Melissa Fares; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)