The pitch is a lot smaller than normal, but that doesn't mean the competition is any less fierce. Australia's four-legged robot soccer teams will be battling for supremacy on Friday (16 April) in the Australian Robot Soccer Open being staged at the University of Technology, Sydney.
The Open is an important trial event for teams hoping to continue Australia's strong showing in the four-legged league of the Robot Soccer World Cup (RoboCup), being held this year in Lisbon, Portugal from 27 June to 5 July - at the same time human soccer players are in Lisbon for the European Soccer Championship (EURO2004). The theme of this year's World Cup is: "A small kick for robots, a giant score for science".
The collocation of human and robot soccer championships gives some extra emphasis to the ultimate aim of the RoboCup competition - to develop by the year 2050 a team of fully autonomous humanoid robots that can beat the human world soccer champion team.
"Our autonomous robots are already beating humans," said Professor Mary-Anne Williams of the UTS Faculty of Information Technology, Team Manager for UTS Unleashed!
"Last August our autonomous robots annihilated a team of human controlled robots, despite the fact that the humans had near perfect information about the state of the game and as a result could exercise highly sophisticated forms of strategic reasoning during the match.
"By comparison the autonomous robots can see less than half the field and have to manage a lot of uncertain information about their own location, the location of the ball and the location and heading of team mates," Professor Williams said.
Robotics researchers at UTS, the University of NSW, the University of Newcastle and Griffith University are applying the latest concepts in artificial intelligence to turn their Sony AIBO robots into soccer obsessives with one mission - getting their ball into the opposition goal.
"The soccer game gives researchers a focus for solving key problems in the fields of artificial intelligence and robotics," Professor Williams said. "One of them is reproducing the kind of reasoning we all take for granted, 'commonsense reasoning'. We have to build robust models that allow robots to make collaborative decisions in complex and changing environments."
The Australians are out the front of the pack in the four-legged competition - the veterans, University of NSW, won the event at last year's RoboCup in Italy and Newcastle was third. UTS was the best new team, making an impressive showing in its first appearance, and automatically qualified for Lisbon.
The Australian teams will be joined by the MicroSoft Hellhounds from Germany for next Friday's Australian Open, which is sponsored by Telstra.
The Australian Robot Soccer Open Date: Friday 16 April 2004 Time: All day Location: UTS City campus, Building 10, Jones St, Ultimo, Level 5, Room 285
Further Information: Professor Mary-Anne Williams Ph 9514 1940 or 0439 439 942 Mary-Anne@it.uts.edu.au