Robo World Cup in Bristol

23 08 2012

Bristol may have lost the chance to host World Cup football by first, the long-running Ashton Vale saga, and second, the fact that England was not chosen as host country for 2014, but in the top floor event space at At-Bristol, there really is currently a World Cup taking place.

On the opening day of competition yesterday, there were goalmouth scrambles, hapless defenders, marauding attackers and cheering spectators.

All just like real football, apart from one thing: no drama queens.

And another. This game is played by robots.

The occasion is the annual Olympic Games of robotics called the Robo World Cup and organised by the Federation of International Robotics Association (FIRA), with more than 200 human competitors and their electronic creations from across the world.

Bristol is hosting the four-day event thanks to the work of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), a joint research project between Bristol University and UWE.

Guido Herrmann, who led the BRL bid, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming teams from around the world to Bristol. The competition promises to be both exciting and insightful, pushing the boundaries of robotics to the limit. This will be a fantastic opportunity for the public to see just what autonomous robots are capable of.

“Although very different to the Olympics, it’s another opportunity to show the world just what Great Britain is capable of, both as event hosts and being pioneers of engineering.”

Sports and geekery are unusual bedfellows, with most computer nerds IT specialists from my childhood doing everything they could to stay in front of a computer rather than doing any physical exercise.

Robo World Cup is the perfect excuse therefore for them to play sport without having to move from in front of their laptop screens, and the room is full of hyper-intelligent robotics experts hunkered down behind computers.

This may be all a bit of fun, but for many here programming a machine to shoot a ball into a net could be the first step towards major advances in robot technology.

It’s not just football either, with competitions for humanoid robots in basketball, wall climbing, weightlifting and marathon running.

The FIRA Robo World Cup takes place until Saturday. Entry is free. Visit the At-Bristol website for more details.


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