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Move Over World Cup, Time for RoboCup

Humanoid robots dressed in the colors of Germany's and Brazil's national soccer team jerseys hold the official 2014 World Cup soccer ball during a photo opportunity at the Institute for Computer Science at the University of Bonn in Bonn June 18, 2014.
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The end of the World Cup does not mean the end of international competition in Brazil this year. A major football event will happen in the South American country later this month, but with teams of robots playing the game -- which is known as soccer in the United States. The robot teams are guided by teams of humans from around the world. The event is known as RoboCup.

Technology students at the University of Pennsylvania are trying for their fourth victory at the competition, which is held this year in the coastal city Joao Pessoa. The students have won the last three RoboCup competitions.

Watching robots play football is similar to watching children play the game -- the kicks are not good, there is a lot of falling down, and people are there to guide and support the team members.

Jian Qiao Li is one of the leaders of the University of Pennsylvania team. He says one goal he has for the robot team is to make sure the machines can find the goal and the ball. He also wants the robots to be able to know where they are on the playing field. And he wants the team to be able to better-control the walking and kicking abilities of the robots.

Qin He is another leader of the robot team. She says the abilities of the robots increase every year. Ms. He says the U.S. team is meeting its goals: the robots know the difference between the colors green and red, and they can decide where to go and where the ball is on the playing field. She says the robots are self-learning and do not need to be told what to do. She says if there are three robot players on the field at the same time, they will communicate with each other to decide the different responsibilities for each robot.

U.S. team member Christopher Akatsuka hopes for another victory in Brazil. The team has won the RoboCup the past three years, in the Netherlands, Mexico and Turkey.

“They have very good team play right now. As long as their detection is good, I think they’ll be very competitive, we just hope to compete against real good German teams, because the Germans always do very well.”

Mr. Akatsuka says Robocup is an exciting technology competition.

“Each team develops their own software -- basically it’s a competition of who has the best software, who has the best decision-making at a given point. It’s really exciting.”

The event begins July 19th and ends July 25th. Some RoboCup participants hope to develop a team of robots that can play against humans by 2050.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

This story was based on a report by VOA reporter Zlatica Hoke.



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