WATCH: Robots Win World Cup (of Robot Soccer)

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Robots can do many things. They can vacuum our homes. They can assemble our automobiles in huge factories. And, of course, they can play soccer.

Over the last week, teams from all over the world have been competing in the Robot World Cup in Istanbul, Turkey. A team from Virginia Tech’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory won two divisions of the contest, with their DARwin and CHARLI robots.

The score in the final match of the adult size division was, appropriately, 1-0.

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The contest pitches robot teams of varying sizes against one another, playing as-close-to-the-real-thing-as-possible soccer matches. There are goals at each end of the pitch, there’s a ball, and the aim of the game is the same: Put the ball in the back of the net.

Of course, everything happens at a slightly slower pace than the human version of the game, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get pretty thrilling.

Some of these robots can even haul themselves back onto their feet if they fall over, and they do so without complaining about injury, claiming they’ve been fouled, or making accusatory gestures at the referee while his back is turned. Something a few human soccer players could learn from, there.

There’s a serious side to all of this, too. The Robot World Cup has been a regular fixture in the robot world calendar since 1997, and brings together a variety of technical disciplines, including sensing of the environment, motion tracking, artificial intelligence, wireless communication, and precision movement control. Just as in a real soccer match, there are rules to follow. And a great deal of work goes into building every robot player, so what the scientists learn can be ploughed back into other aspects of robot research.

Just imagine: If we can build robots that play soccer pretty well, we’ll also have robots that make excellent B-list celebrities when their soccer-playing days are over—just like in the U.K. Bonus!

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(Via BBC News)

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