Can robots play football? | The Economist

When will robots beat humans at football?
As billions of exhausted fans were recovering from the football frenzy of
the World Cup another much geekier global football competition was kicking
off in Brazil RoboCup pits machine against machine to find the world’s best
robot soccer teams the competition has for leagues played on real pitches and a
virtual league simulated inside computers In the small sized league,
miniature cylinders on wheels battle it out Each team controlled by a single
computer at the other end of the spectrum in both size and sophistication
humanoid robots compete at a decidedly more sedentary pace, using their own
independent onboard sensors and artificial intelligence These robots may seem clunky and slow
but do not be fooled one day their descendants will rule the world or at least the world of football that is the stated goal of the robotics researchers who launched RoboCup in 1997 they also set a precise date to achieve this goal 2050 could a team of robots really beat the human World Cup champions by the
middle of the century? never mind the unwieldy players on
display in Brazil this year, say the organisers look instead at the long arc of history
50 years is the time it took for the first electronic computers to
evolve into deep blue the IBM supercomputer that beat Garry Kasparov
the World Chess Champion in 1997 and there were only 58 years from the Wright
brothers first powered flight to the first manned space flight The 2014 World Cup final the one played by mere mortals, that is saw Argentina beaten by a highly
technical and some would say machine-like German team but one day even
Germany’s young stars may struggle to defeat the next generation of
footballing robots

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