Scottish robots reach quarter-finals of world cup

A team of robots designed in Edinburgh have outperformed the Scottish national team by reaching the quarter-finals of the world cup.

Scientists developed the small, humanoid robots to use computer vision to find the ball and to estimate positions around the pitch by using visual cues.

The team of robots, known as Edinferno, were programmed at the University of Edinburgh and took part in the 25-team RoboCup tournament in Mexico City earlier this month.

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Dr Subramanian Ramamoorthy, assistant professor at the university’s school of informatics, said: “The ultimate aim of our work is to develop robots that can interact with people and carry out work in dangerous environments such as subsea or space exploration.

“Football is a good experimental stage as it allows us and other scientists to test how quickly the robots can respond to a changing environment. It gives us a test tube study on interaction in a small area.

“Once the game begins we have no control over the robots so it really tests our development and programming. Basically, whoever has developed their robots to respond quickest will win.”

The team, led by Professor Ramamoorthy and three PhD students, take part in the Standard Platform League and regularly compete with other humanoid teams.

Scientists behind the league believe the robot team that wins the world cup in 2050 will be able to take on their human equivalents in a full game.

The RoboCup 2012 website says: “By mid-21st century, a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players shall win the soccer game, comply with the official rule of the Fifa, against the winner of the most recent World Cup.”

Prof Ramamoorthy said: “We have 38 years and if we continue to develop it could be an interesting match.

“We only play four-on-four at the moment so I don’t think we could beat Scotland at the moment, but then we did reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

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“I think it would be like the chess match between Deep Blue and world champion Garry Kasparov 15 years ago.”

The annual tournament, viewed as the world’s biggest robotics and artificial intelligence event, was founded in 1997 and draws scientists and students from around the world.

Robocup 2012 was won by Austin Villa, a team of robots from the University of Texas in the US.