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Robot soccer-players clinch penalty shootout

08 May, 2008

In a nail-biting finale to the recent RoboCup Open tournament in Germany, a Dutch team of soccer-playing robots defeated a German team in a penalty shootout to take the crown as champions of the German Middle Size League. Teams in this league are formed of six three-wheeled players, each weighing around 35kg and moving at speeds of up to 4m/s.

In the semi-final, the Dutch Team Tech United Eindhoven conquered the Brainstormers Tribots from OsnabrŁck, Germany, who had not been beaten since 2004. In the final, the Dutch team triumphed over the world number 3, the CoPS Team from Stuttgart.

Robot footballer

Each of the Dutch robot players acts autonomously without remote control and has its own role such as goalkeeper, defender or striker. The players co-operate with each other in a team effort and communicate via wireless Ethernet.

A camera pointing up towards a parabolic mirror provides each player with a 360-degree view of its surroundings which it uses to determine its position. A feature that distinguishes the Dutch players from their rivals is an active ball-handling mechanism. Two levers equipped with motor-driven wheels allow the ball to be pulled as well as pushed.

The robotís kicking mechanism can produce flat as well as lob shots - a feature that proved to be extremely effective in the semi-final. Each player is controlled by a mini-PC and uses EtherCAT communications to interface with drives, sensors and actuators. EtherCAT was chosen because of its low CPU load and the fact that it did not need any hardware extensions to the PC.

Attention now moves to Suzhou, China, where the world RoboCup championships will be held in July. The ultimate goal of the RoboCup project is to develop a team of autonomous humanoid robots that will be able to beat the human world soccer champions by 2050.

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