UNSW gets robots ready for Robo soccer World Cup

Team rUNSWift taking on the world's best robot soccer players in Brazil

UNSW PhD student Sean Harris with one of the robot soccer players. Photo credit: Grant Turner, Mediakoo.

UNSW PhD student Sean Harris with one of the robot soccer players. Photo credit: Grant Turner, Mediakoo.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) is hoping to do better than the Socceroos at their version of the FIFA World Cup, the RoboCup Championships.

The competition, which sees 45 countries taking part, will run from July 19-25 in Joao Pessoa, Brazil.

UNSW school of computer science and engineering head, Maurice Pagnucco, told Computerworld Australia that the team, called rUNSWift, competes in a league called the Standard Platform league. This means every team uses exactly the same robots.

However, he said UNSW has “developed a nice little sidestep” for the autonomous robots to help them walk around opposing robots.

“These robots have a hip joint and we have exploited the way this robot is constructed so that it can move as quickly as possible and introduce a few novel elements such as this sidestep,” said Pagnucco.

“All of the teams try and introduce some sort of innovation. [The robots] walking is one of the most important things because the quicker they can walk to the ball, the better off we are.”

UNSW took out second place in the Standard Platform league of the 2010 RoboCup Championships in Singapore.

Read: Will robot soccer players one day play FIFA’s best?

However, the robots can’t run like their human counterparts. Pagnucco explained that the robots must have at least one foot on the ground due to their design.

Like human sportspeople, the robots suffer injuries such as broken joints. Team members are kept busy replacing the plastic gears during competitions.

Pagnucco said UNSW’s participation in the competition has helped his students grasp complex ICT skills such as coding. For example, each autonomous robot has 125,000 lines of code that needs to be maintained. The robots are programmed to walk, kick, recognise colours, lines on the field and the goal posts.

For the first time this year, a robot coach will help rUNSWift’s five-a-side team. The robot coach sits on the sidelines and takes an overview of play. It also send strategies to the team, albeit with a 10-second delay.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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