U.S. wins another soccer World Cup, this time with humanoid robots

Just days after defeating Japan in the World Cup women’s soccer final, the U.S. has scored a similar victory at RoboCup, otherwise known as the Robot Soccer World Cup.

Entered by a group of engineers from the University of Pennsylvania, the team of fully autonomous “THORwin” robots managed to defeat Iran 5-4 in the final for adult-sized humanoid bots.

This year’s RoboCup tournament, which took place in the city of Hefei near Shanghai, attracted hundreds of participants from almost 50 countries. The contest offers a range of categories, including for humanoid and non-humanoid robots of various sizes. Winners in other categories included teams from Australia and Japan.

The aim of the RoboCup contest, which has been running for nearly 20 years, is to encourage the development of robotic and AI technology. It also has the highly ambitious plan to create a humanoid team capable of taking on the very best human side in a one-off showdown before 2050. The organizers actually state that they want the robots to take on future winners of the World Cup, but judging by some of the footage in the video above, engineers clearly have their work cut out.

In the video, many of the droids appear to spend most of their time stumbling around like inebriated amateurs incapable of focusing on the task in hand. Top marks go to one of the goalkeepers, however, which at one point makes a superb diving save of which a real-life human pro player would surely be proud.

Whatever the current state of play in the world of robot soccer, RoboCup officials are confident they’ll be able to assemble a high-tech team of competent humanoids in the next 35 years, pointing out that it took “only 50 years from the invention of the digital computer to Deep Blue, which beat the human world champion in chess.”


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