Robots learn physics to hone football skills

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Carnegie Mellon scientists are teaching physics to robots to improve their soccer-playing performance.

Robot soccer players in this month's RoboCup 2010 world championship in Singapore are to get a new algorithm that helps them to predict the ball's behavior based on physics principles.

"Over the years, we have developed many successful teams of robot soccer players, but we believe that the physics-based planning algorithm is a particularly noteworthy accomplishment," said Manuela Veloso, professor of computer science and leader of Carnegie Mellon's two robot soccer teams.

Past teams have relied on pre-programmed actions, mainly reactive and aimed at avoiding obstacles.

"To reach RoboCup's goal of creating robot teams that can compete with human teams, we need robots that can plan a strategy using models of their capabilities as well as the capabilities of others, and accurate predictions of the state of a constantly changing game," said Veloso.

RoboCup www.robocup2010.org includes five different robot soccer leagues, as well as competitions for search-and-rescue robots, for assistive robots and for students up to age 19. It takes place in Singapore from June 19 to 25.

"Physics-based planning gives us an advantage when a robot is dribbling the ball and needs to make a tight turn, or any other instance that requires an awareness of the dynamics of the ball," said Stefan Zickler, who developed the algorithm for his thesis.

"Figuring out how to get robots to coordinate with each other and to do so in environments with high uncertainty is one of the grand challenges facing artificial intelligence," Veloso said.

Watch them in action, here.