A soccer match where humans and robots compete against each other on the same playing field may be possible by 2050, reports the technology-focused Meraka Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrail Research.
Meraka Institute artificial intelligence senior researcher Chris Burger reports that the purpose of the research is to ascertain whether robots can be developed to think for themselves in pressure situations and formulate strategies to beat their human counterparts.
“The main focus of the research is to enhance the robots’ artificial intelligence to the stage where they can make decisions on their feet. Significant research is also being put into the robots’ image processing capabilities so that they can identify a situation and react appropriately,” says Burger.
The notion of a human-versus-robot soccer match is being driven by the RoboCup initiative.
The RoboCup initiative is an international initiative to foster artificial intelligence and intelligent robotics research by providing a standard problem where a wide range of technologies can be integrated and examined.
RoboCup chose to use a soccer game as a central topic of research, aiming at innovations to be applied for socially significant problems and industries. The initiative holds an annual international RoboCup competition, where participating international teams design and build robots that compete in a soccer game against other robots. The initiative reports that the main aim of the competition is not to select a winning team or a losing team, but to enhance knowledge sharing between the teams.
One of the more immediate targets is the establishment of a national robotics competition to select the top team from South Africa to represent the country at a RoboCup tournament in the future. Burger reports that a national tournament such as this could be established as soon as 2009.
“There was a drive from Robotics South Africa to have the 2010 RoboCup in South Africa. However, the host country for that event has not been decided yet. At the very least, though, the institute hopes to have credible South African participation at the RoboCup world championships in 2010,” says Burger.
He adds that five universities have expressed an interest in participating in a countrywide tournament. Two of these universities, the University of Stellenbosch and the University of Cape Town, participated in the SEW Pneudrive competition, which involved designing a robot using equipment supplied by the company.
“Countries such as Germany, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and the US are the world leaders in this research. Many systems in those countries are automated and run by robots. “However, there is a significant amount of knowledge sharing between these countries and institutions in South Africa,” says Burger.
He adds that collaborative agreements are being forged, mainly with European countries. The University of Cape Town has agreements with institutions in Germany and Austria regarding robotics knowledge transfer.