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A football team out of Germany is playing the beautiful game a little differently: with robots. The team, B-Human, is a group of students and professors from the University of Bremer in Germany. They recently won the annual world cup of robot football, the RoboCup.
The decisive game came down to a shootout between the Germans and a team from the University of Texas, “Austin Villa.” All the teams that participated had to use the same type of robots, the “Nao,” a creation of Aldebaran Robotics. The only difference in the bots is the programming and software that teams develop.
During the main competition, which is indoors, the teams play on a smaller version of a football pitch that measures 9 by 6 meters. The game is also shorter, with two 10-minute halves. The rules also follow those of a regular football game. Through many close calls and penalty kicks B-Human won, which was an improvement upon their place last year when they lost in the final to Australia.
The RoboCup isn’t just about the main competition—there were combined team competitions, outdoor competitions on turf, and technical contests. B-Human placed in the top three for all these events. The B-Human team is made up of 11 robots and 23 students. The team has been very successful, with four world championship wins since its first RoboCup competition in 2009.
The robots are far from being able to compete at the level of humans. Many of the bots fall during the game, and they move at more of a shuffle than a full running pace. The ability of the robots to perceive a ball and understand their position on the pitch requires a lot more programming. Although robots are far from modern footballers, there is hope that with further technology and computer programming, there may one day be a robot football team to compete against humans.