UT robot soccer team wins 3D simulation at RoboCup 2016

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UT Austin Villa robot soccer team poses with robots after winning an international tournament in Beijing, China. This was the team’s fifth championship in the last six years.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Peter Stone

UT Austin Villa robot soccer team placed first in an exhibition tournament in Beijing, China, last week.

In July, the team scored 88 goals while only giving up one goal to win the 3D simulation league at RoboCup 2016 in Leipzig, Germany. This is the team’s fifth 3-D simulation world championship in the last six years, according to the team’s website. The team also placed second in Leipzig in the standard platform league, which uses humanoid robots.  

Katie Genter, a computer science doctoral student and Standard Platform League technical committee chair, said the UT Austin Villa team’s robots stand out because they can strategize effectively.

“Historically we’ve focused more on the strategy than other teams,” Genter said. “One thing that makes our robots stand apart is that our robots can communicate more with each other and actually use that information.”

According to their website, RoboCup’s objective is to defeat the winner of the World Cup using fully autonomous humaniod robots by the middle of the 21st century.  

Peter Stone, a computer science professor and founder of UT Austin Villa, said the rapid rate of innovation in the technology industry means RoboCup’s goal is not far-feteched.

“I’ve always said that 50 years is a very long time in technology,” Stone said. “If you count from the Wright brothers having their first airplane flight to landing a man on the moon, it was less than 70 years. From the first computer to beating the human chess champion was about 50 years. Lots of very impressive things can happen in that amount of time, so I wouldn’t rule out robot soccer being one of them.”

Patrick MacAlpine, the student leader of the 3-D simulation team, said the seemingly trivial task of creating robots that play soccer has broader implications for robotics in developing vision, mobility and collaboration.

“The whole point of this is not just to develop robots that can beat the World Cup champions, but we’re actually solving difficult problems that [target] … many important robotic issues,” MacAlpine said.

Genter said team members gain experience at UT Austin Villa that allows them to transition to successful careers in the robotics field.

“I think a lot of the work we’re doing is important to industry not necessarily at the algorithmic level, but [because we are] training people and getting them interested into robotics,” Genter said.