Australian students triumph at RoboCup Soccer World Championships

A team of engineering students from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has been crowned champions in the main football event at the RoboCup games in China.

UNSW robot kicks a ball in the RoboCup World Championships
UNSW robot kicks a ball in the RoboCup World Championships

The competition, which was established in 1997, sees teams programming robots to battle it out on the football field. This year’s edition saw over 300 teams from 47 countries participate across multiple categories, ranging from humanoid robots of various sizes to robots on wheels with mechanisms for passing and shooting.

The main competition involves teams running their own code on a standard 58 cm-tall robot. As soon as each game kicks off, the robots are effectively autonomous, with the teams not allowed to input via remote control or by adjusting the programming.

“They tell everyone else where they are on the field and where the ball is, and they make decisions,” said Sean Harris from the UNSW team.

“Maybe one player will play goalkeeper and another player says I’m the closest to the ball. I’m going to kick it and someone else says I’ll pass here, I’m standing here or things like that. They try and position around the field and things like that. And then they share all that information – everybody knows what everyone else is doing.”

In this year’s final, UNSW Australia defeated B-Human, a German team from the University of Bremen and DFKI (German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence) by three goals to one, defending the title they had won in 2014.

“Everyone has the same robots, so it’s all about how you program them and the intelligence,” said Sean. “But we are fast. We have a really fast walk. So we are fast, we get to the ball first. And we can play in the direction we want to. So that’s really advantageous to us to be fast and that’s what wins us most of the games.”

The 2016 RoboCup is set to take place in Leipzig, Germany.