Tokyo soccer robots don't quite have Becks appeal

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TOKYO, Oct 21 (Reuters) David Beckham doesn't have anything to fear from robot players -- for now.

At an indoor field in Tokyo, dozens of robots played soccer while others danced to samba music to cheer them on.

For the contestants, most of the movements were, well, mechanical and even a little clumsy -- far from the acrobatic grace of premier-league soccer stars.

Several small humanoid robots taking part in ''Robot Athletic Meet 2007'' toppled over as they collided on the indoor field, their every move buzzing with the sound of their motors.

In most cases, the robots -- some remote-controlled by their owners and others pre-programmed to respond to the ball's movements -- were able to pick themselves up and carry on with the match.

Ken Senoh, chief organiser of the event, said robots might soon surpass humans with their physical prowess.

''Today's robots are still toddlers, so to speak, in terms of their physical capabilities,'' said Senoh, a professor of advanced science and technology at the University of Tokyo.

''But it's only a matter of time that they will catch up with humans and eventually outrun us -- just in the same way personal computers, which were slow and not up to par until just a few decades ago, can now perform various tasks much faster than humans.'' Dozens of ''AIBO'' robot dogs made by Sony Corp also took part in the event, playing soccer and dancing to samba music dressed in colourful samurai and bikini costumes.

Some of their doting owners, however, preferred to have their AIBOs watch, not play.

''It was a little scary. They were bumping against each other very hard,'' said Fumiko Kaneyama, 56, of the soccer match.

''I'm not going to let my son play a game like that,'' she said, referring to her robot dog.

REUTERS SKB VC1420

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