Uni students build soccer playing robots

STUDENTS from the University of Newcastle have taught a team of robots how to play soccer.

The six students have been working for at least four months to write software for the "kid size" humanoid robots, which each have two legs, use a web camera to see, operate autonomously and are worth about $10,000.

The cohort will travel in late June to the Netherlands for RoboCup 2013, where their team of three robots, called the NUbots, will play soccer against teams from 23 other countries in a competition modelled on the World Cup.

Associate Professor in Computer Science and Software Engineering Stephan Chalup said programming robots to win was a complex task.

"You need to teach the robots how to use their vision to identify where the ball is on the field, localisation so they know their position and the position of other robots on the field, behaviour in terms of how and when to kick the ball, and motor control so they don't fall over," he said.

"It's one thing to write brilliantly about your methods in a highly regarded journal, but this is really about how the methods play out on the field."

NUbots have participated in the competition since 2002 and won titles in 2006 and 2008.

Team leader and computer science PhD student Josiah Walker said each of the six students dedicated at least 10 hours a week to working in the lab in the hope of another victory.

"Last year we got about halfway up the ladder and some of those days were 15-hour days," he said.

"We only have two students who have participated in RoboCup before and we all see it as a huge honour to be part of the team."

The ultimate goal of the RoboCup initiative is to develop by 2050 a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players that can comply with the official rules of FIFA and win a soccer game against the winner of the most recent World Cup.

RoboCup technology could be applied to mining, medical imaging, military uses, housework and more.

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