The international competition features six days of fierce bot-on-bot soccer

Before Brazilians could recover from the excitement of the human World Cup, an army of robots descended upon the nation to seek soccer glory of their own. Representing teams from more than 45 nations, the bots are competing in a number of categories on and off the field.

RoboCup 2014 has set up shop in “Poeta Ronaldo Cunha Lima” Convention Center in João Pessoa, a frequent tourist destination on Brazil’s scenic northeast coast, and has drawn more than 60,000 visitors. Since debuting in 1997 in Nagoya, Japan, the annual event has traveled to more than a dozen nations, often following the World Cup in its host nation of that year. It brings together over 4,000 engineers with three common goals: to make consistent achievements in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence, to educate the public about these fields, and to produce a “team composed of fully autonomous humanoid robots” to play against the human winners of the 2050 FIFA World Cup — and win.

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Happening from July 19th through July 25th, the event includes five competitive soccer “leagues” — Simulation, Small Size Robot, Middle Size Robot, Standard Platform, and Humanoid — containing only fully autonomous and remote-free robots. The regulations for game play are simple, as laid out in RoboCup’s 2014 press release:

Robots must obey the same rules of a soccer game, with two halfs, kickings, scorings, goals, fouls, side kicks – a big technical challenge. The games will be observed by a human judge, often with the aid of a robot judge.

The rules for bot-building, however, are updated yearly by technical committees according to 5-10 year road maps of league goals “in order to promote advances in the science and technology of robots and to make the league challenges closer to real world [ones], rather than to impose artificial setups to improve league-specific performance.”

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Beyond the soccer matches, the bots are competing in a number of function-related leagues. In the Rescue League, robots designed to take the places of humans in hazardous scenarios compare skills (a robot from RoboCup 2013 — aka Sendai University’s “Quince” — was used to help secure the facility after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, for example). In the @Home League competitions, robots designed with human care-taking in mind face a variety of challenges, such as navigating new surroundings, “butlering,” and even registering themselves at the event. In the RoboCupJunior events, the creations of elementary- and middle-school students the world over battle for prevalence in such areas as rescue, soccer, and dance (giving Honda’s Asimo some healthy competition).

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In addition to the league games, the RoboCup organization hosts an annual symposium, featuring renowned speakers from various corners of the scientific and engineering communities.

For more shots of RoboCup competitors and to root for your favorites, check out RoboCup 2014′s Flickr page.

Images: Valdecir Becker / RoboCup / UFPB

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