OxBlue, Oxford's Robot Football teams at RoboCup
Robot football (aka soccer) is a `grand challenge' for robotics researchers; few really expect us to be able to build robot football players that are better than humans, but in trying to do so we get to consilder and (hopefully) solve lots of problems tha will find uses in robots bound for other applications, such as in healthcare, in space, and in the home.
In Oxford we use robot football in a number of ways. Firstly, as a teaching tool in project work, where the techniques used to build reactive robot agents are an interesting variation on the programing techniques used elsewhere. And secondly, we use it as an example domain for research, and we participate in competitions at the local level (under FIRA rules) and internationally (under RoboCup rules).
In July 2008 we will be participating in the RoboCup 2008 meeting in China. The RoboCup organisation runs smaller tournaments and conferences throughout the year, but the annual World Championships form the main showcase for progress in intelligent robotics. Here various forms of robot teams from throughout the world will compete against each other in football tournaments, together with some other robot-related activities.
The activities at the World Championships can be split into four areas. The most spectacular are the robot football games with physical robots, with the leagues split according to the size of the robots, and whether they use wheels or legs. Many of the issues being tackled here are the serious engineering problems of building robots capable of moving a ball around, whilst being reliable enough to still be operating at the end of the game! The second area is the Simulation leagues, which use simulated robots within computer programs to push the boundaries of robot intelligence without the constraints of what is physically possible today; thus the computer programs written here will find their way into the physical robots of tomorrow. Oxford has two simulation teams at the Championship: a `2D' team, based on the use of wheeled robots, and a `3D' team with legged (humanoid) robots. The third area is Education, with schoolkids being encouraged to experiment with small robots in dance and play. Finally, the fourth area is called Robocup Rescue, which is a new area within RoboCup in which real and simulated robots are used to help human rescuers within a simulated disaster management scenario; Oxford is joining forces with the University of Amsterdam to run a team.