Carnegie Mellon's soccer-playing robots use physics to score a goal

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Washington, June 4 (ANI): Scoring goals may come down to only cracking physics equations for robot soccer players from Carnegie Mellon University competing in this month's RoboCup 2010 world championship in Singapore.

Thanks to a new algorithm that helps them to predict the ball's behaviour based on physics principles, the CMDragons will be able to out-maneuver their opponents and find creative solutions to game situations that could even surprise their programmers.

"Over the years, we have developed many successful teams of robot soccer players, but we believe that the physics-based planning algorithm is a particularly noteworthy accomplishment," said Manuela Veloso, professor of computer science and leader of Carnegie Mellon's two robot soccer teams.

"Past teams have drawn from a repertoire of pre-programmed behaviors to play their matches, planning mostly to avoid obstacles and acting with reactive strategies.

"To reach RoboCup's goal of creating robot teams that can compete with human teams, we need robots that can plan a strategy using models of their capabilities as well as the capabilities of others, and accurate predictions of the state of a constantly changing game," said Veloso, who is president of the International RoboCup Federation.

"Physics-based planning gives us an advantage when a robot is dribbling the ball and needs to make a tight turn, or any other instance that requires an awareness of the dynamics of the ball," said Stefan Zickler, a newly minted Ph.D. in computer science who developed the algorithm for his thesis.

"Will the ball stick with me when I turn? How fast can I turn? These are questions that the robots previously could never answer."

The algorithm could enable the robots to concoct some new kicks, including bank shots, Zickler said. But the computational requirements for kick planning are greater than for dribbling, so limited computational power and time will keep this use to a minimum.

One challenge that the scientists are facing is figuring out how to get robots to coordinate with each other - a grand challenge facing artificial intelligence.

"RoboCup is focusing the energies of many smart young minds on solving this problem, which ultimately will enable using distributed intelligence technology in the general physical world," Veloso said. (ANI)

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