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RoboCup 2010

Out-Dribbling the Opponent

RoboCup 2010

Thanks to a new algorithm that helps predict a ball's behavior based on physics, Carnegie Mellon's robot soccer team out-dribbled many of its opponents at the RoboCup 2010 world championship in Singapore.

Tune in to CNN for a special feature on RoboCup that includes an interview with Manuel Veloso and highlights CMU’s excellence in technology and innovation. The feature will air Sat., July 10, from 2-3 p.m.; and Sun., July 11, from 6-7 p.m.

The CMDragons — the team name for the small-sized robots developed by Carnegie Mellon researchers — had hoped the advancements would help them out-maneuver their opponents, find creative solutions to game situations and even invent new kicks. They came in second, losing in the final to a team from Thailand.

"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 the university's teams. Past teams have drawn from a repertoire of pre-programmed behaviors to play their matches, planning mostly to avoid obstacles and acting with reactive strategies.

"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, who is also president of the International RoboCup Federation.

In addition to the Small-Size League team, which uses wheeled robots less than six inches high, Carnegie Mellon fields a Standard Platform League team, called the CMurfs, that uses 22-inch-tall humanoid robots as players. The CMurfs came in fourth.

Both teams joined more than 500 other teams — and about 3,000 participants — in Singapore June 19-25 for RoboCup 2010, the world's largest robotics and artificial intelligence event. RoboCup 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.

The CMDragons have been strong competitors at RoboCup, winning in 2006 and 2007 and finishing second in 2008. Last year, the team lost in the quarterfinals because of a programming glitch, but had dominated teams up to that point with the help of a preliminary version of the physics-based planning algorithm.

"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, a newly minted Ph.D. in computer science who developed the algorithm for his thesis. "Will the ball stick with me when I turn? How fast can I turn? These are questions that the robots previously could never answer."

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