Australian team beats Germany in robot world cup

An Australian robot football team has achieved what the Socceroos could not: beat the German team in an international competition in Brazil.
Written by Leon Spencer, Contributor

Although the Australian Socceroos were knocked out of the 2014 FIFA world cup, another Australian team has topped a slightly different game in Brazil this week — the University of New South Wales (UNSW) robot football team, which beat the German team last night in the RoboCup 2014.

The UNSW robot football team, rUNSWift, competed against 19 other teams from around the world in the standard platform league of RoboCup, the world's largest robot competition, last night beating Leipzig University of Applied Sciences's Nao – Team HTWK.

While not quite as agile as their human counterparts, the Australian robot team struck back with a goal after the German team took early possession, and went on to defeat their rivals 5-1. Previous winner, German team B-Human, came in at third place.

"We were ecstatic to beat B-Human in the semi-final yesterday after seven years of trying," said Brad Hall from UNSW's School of Computer Science and Engineering.

The UNSW robot team racked up 37 goals against their opponents with no goals conceded — except one, according to Hall.

"Unfortunately, during the final, after our goalie saved an attempt, he fell over and while trying to get back up and in position we conceded the only goal during the entire competition," he said.

Hall said that wining the overall tournament in Brazil has wrapped up a great year for the team, which he hopes to emulate at next year’s competition in China.

"Some of our longer-serving team members can now retire from the league with big smiles on their faces," he said. "For our new members, I hope they are inspired to help us defend the title next year in China."

For Maurice Pagnucco, head of computer science and engineering at UNSW, the win is the payoff for the long hours put in by the human members of the robot team.

"Congratulations to the team and coach Bernhard Hengst for their long nights in the lab. This result showcases UNSW and Australian research expertise in robotics internationally," he said.

In the standard platform league all teams compete with identical robots. Only the software is different. The UNSW team wrote 125,000 lines of code to help their team win the competition.

While the robots are autonomous, they do require the occasional helping hand to get back on their feet after a tackle or a tumble.

There are four robot football divisions at RoboCup: small size, middle size, humanoid league and standard platform league. UNSW's rUNSWift team last won the competition in 2003, and they were runners up in 2010.

According to UNSW, the expertise developed on the playing field will be translated into more serious research including robotic systems for applications in health, transport and industry.

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