It takes blood and guts to win a World Cup.... Or does it? Last week, at venues in Japan and South Korea, 193 teams from 30 nations participated in RoboCup 2002, a soccer tournament for robots. The competitors ranged from dog robots to five-foot-tall humanoids. Most of the machines can shoot and dribble to some degree; some whiz around at six mph. Many are programmed to run sophisticated set plays. On Saturday the Cornell Big Red, two-time world champs of the technically advanced small-sized league (six inches and smaller), beat the University of Melbourne Roobots 10-0 to reach the semifinals. (The tournament ends on Wednesday.)
RoboCup has grown steadily since its 1997 debut. Although competition gets intense, rival teams often share knowledge before the event. The hope of all is to advance robotics to the point where a robots could compete against humans. "The dream is to field a team that could win the World Cup in 2050," says Raffaello D'Andrea, the Big Red's faculty adviser. "But that's a very lofty goal."