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Robot Soccer: Real Kick to Scientists' Work

By K.L. Vantran
National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2004 – Yang Gu dribbles the soccer ball across the grassy field. His opponent, a robot named "Brain," turns and moves toward the action.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Yang Gu dribbles the soccer ball past the robot "Brain." The technology gained from playing soccer with robots may one day help save troops' lives. Photo by K.L.Vantran

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The technology gleaned from playing soccer with robots may one day help save the lives of those in combat, said Brett Browning, a systems scientist in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh.

Browning's work focuses on teams of autonomous robots operating in complex, dynamic and often adversarial environments. His main project is robot soccer, where teams of robots compete.

Robot soccer, he said, lets researchers focus on problems within a realistic, difficult and somewhat standardized test environment. This allows usable and useful comparisons, Browning pointed out.

"Robot soccer is a dynamic, fast and exciting testing domain that allows us to investigate many robotics-related research issues," said Browning, who hails from Australia. "By its very nature, robot soccer requires a complete solution where perception, cognition and action must work as a cohesive unit. The need for rapid behavioral response, and the limited available computational power, means that all our algorithms must be fast and efficient.

"The autonomous nature of the system means that our algorithms must be robust and the robot must behave sensibly across a wide range of expected and unexpected environmental conditions," he added.

The challenge, Browning said, is to create intelligent robots that can work effectively in teams with humans where decisions need to be made in real-time, such as on the battlefield.

Browning's project is part of a contract that the institute has with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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