Soccer robots going for tenth World Cup final in a row
The TU Eindhoven soccer robot team will be defending its world title from 27 to 30 July at the RoboCup in Nagoya, Japan. RoboCup is the world championschip for intelligent robots in different disciplines, with almost 4000 participants from 40 countries. If Tech United gets to the final, it will be the tenth time in a row. And if the fully autonomous Eindhoven soccer robots win, it will be their fourth world title. In the ‘help-at-home’ category, the TU/e team hopes its robots will be able to bring home a first world title after second and third places at previous tournaments.
Robin van Perslucht, Arjen Robot and Robotdinho: just to name a few ‘star players’ from the soccer robot team of Tech United, a team of students and researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology. The table-height soccer robots play with a real soccer ball in 5-a-side matches of two halves of 15 minutes each on a pitch measuring 18x12 meters. They are programmed beforehand, but as soon as the game starts, they play completely autonomous and the team members are just spectators.
This year the team made several technical improvements. “They are now better able to handle their opponents, they have become smarter defenders and are better at intercepting”, says Lotte de Koning, team captain. The team will also bring a new ultra-stable 8-wheeled soccer robot with them. The current robots have three or, in the case of a goal keeper, four wheels. The new robot won't come in action a lot yet, but they aim to have a full team of 8-wheeled robots next year.
Tech United competes in the so-called ‘Middle Size League’, the most important competition in robot soccer, which sees the most spectacular play. The battle for the title will probably go between the Eindhoven team and the Chinese team Water, from the Technical University of Beijing. They clashed in the final in the last four years. If Tech United will get to the final again, it will be the tenth time in a row. A win will bring their fourth world title, after they won in 2012, 2014 and 2016. The first signs are promising: they won the Portuguese Robotics Open earlier this year.
Their help-at-home robot, AMIGO, is in his league also one of the contenders. In the @Home competition service robots compete against each other in carrying out everyday household tasks, such as taking spoken orders for drinks and then serving them at the right place. The aim here is to develop affordable and reliable robots that are able to autonomously help people at home so that, for example, they can live independently at home for longer.
AMIGO has also been improved a lot. “The object recognition has been hugely improved, from an error percentage of some 50% to just 5%”, says team captain Matthijs van der Burgh. “AMIGO is now able to identify a person’s skeletal posture from its camera pictures and so see whether someone is waving or pointing, which helps the robot to perform its tasks.” In May the @Home team took part in the German Open, coming second.
TU Eindhoven is this year taking part in a new ‘league’, the Domestic Standard Platform League. The challenges are similar to those of the @Home League, the difference being that each team works with the same robot: the Toyota HSR. TU Eindhoven is unique in Europe in having been given the use of this robot, which is not available commercially, by Toyota.
RoboCup is an annual tournament for autonomous robots in different ‘leagues’. The aim of RoboCup is to accelerate the development of autonomous robots, with the goal on the horizon being the possibility that by 2050 the soccer robots will be able to beat their human world champion counterparts. The tournament is expected to attract around forty thousand participants from forty countries, and thousands of spectators.
The results of the tournament in Nagoya can be monitored on www.techunited.nl, with a livestream available for all the matches.