Robots play soccer

Have you seen the crazy robot battles where they fight to the death hacking at each other with saws and drills? It’s fun too, but I as a fan of sports I prefer another kind of robot competition – robot soccer. As you can see in the video below, the latest AI players are now very much capable of playing tactically. The robot in black sees that an opponent is blocking his way, so he passes the ball to his teammate. Pretty smart, right? Click the video to see!

Of course, it took some time to get here, these funny looking guys haven’t always been so agile and smart. The first Robocup competition was already held in 1997 with over 40 teams from all over the world. There are multiple categories in the Robocup, but these humanoid robots (children, adult size, and the standard platform where the teams have the same robot models) have only been around since 2007. And those guys were really, really clunky, see for yourself.

You can’t even compare these guys to the new 2015 ones. However, they do have some similarities with England’s soccer team – they fail at just about everything but get lucky sometimes and score a goal or two. We created a timeline for you so you can see how they evolved over time.

Timeline: Evolution of robot soccer

Click on each year to see a video hand-picked by out staff!

  • 2008 – Very clunky.
  • 2009 – An additional player is added to each team, they still can’t do teamplay.
  • 2010 – They have better mobility but still bump into their teammates. It’s like children trying to score the most goals.
  • 2011 – Quite agile but still no teamplay.
  • 2012 – USA’s child-size robots are getting really quick.
  • 2013 – USA beats Iran 7-4.
  • 2014 – Not so clunky anymore, but they still bump into their teammates and can’t even comprehend teamplay. Will robot soccer always be about no cooperation and lucky shots?
  • 2015 – The robots can kick to the side, as you saw in the first video. Plus teamplay. The robots send data about the ball and opponents to each other. They can thus make decisions as a team and that makes them finally look like real players.
  • 2016 – Let’s end on a funny note! Note that most of the fails and falls are from the little guys in red, some programmers will probably have to do a bit of explaining. Aside from that, the robots are in a pretty good state right now and who knows, maybe in a few years we’ll have people playing against them!
  • 2030 – First victory of robots against people?
I am Jan, a futurist and science/technology blogger. **UPDATE: Moving my stuff slowly to a new domain name,**