Robot football: How the game has advanced AI

Robot football
Robot football
  • The complexities of football make it a challenging feat for artificial intelligence and autonomous technologies.
  • The International RoboCup Federation organises robot football matches and publishes scientific papers on machine learning.
  • Experts note that advances in robotic football have significant implications for other forms of automation.

In 1997, a computer programme named Deep Blue beat the world’s reigning chess grandmaster, Garry Kasparov, in a highly publicised, multi-day chess match. Enthusiasts have debated the fairness of the game, but the computer’s victory was a major milestone for machine learning.

Today, researchers have been using another game to advance artificial intelligence (AI) and automation: football.

The agility, strategy and teamwork required in football makes the beautiful game a challenging and fruitful feat for AI and autonomous technologies. The International RoboCup Federation, which organises robotic football tournaments around the world, has long been leading such efforts.

“RoboCup is a very special, uniquely inspiring event,” said Peter Stone, the former RoboCup president and the executive director of Sony AI America, an AI development and research company. “It merges long-term, ambitious thinking about how AI and robotics will change the world with practical, immediate considerations regarding how to design, build and program prototype, custom-built robots to sense, decide and act.”

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