UT Team Wins RoboCup Soccer Championships

Who would have thought robots could get even more high-tech than they already are?

A team of programmers known as UT Austin Villa won the 2011 RoboCupSoccer championships in the 3-D simulation division using a team of simulated robots. That’s right—simulations of already artificial intelligence.

UT computer scientists Peter Stone and Patrick MacAlpine led the team during the annual tournament in Istanbul, Turkey, which promotes research in the field of artificial intelligence.

The 3-D division is part of the Simulation League. It requires two teams of nine autonomous artificial intelligence robots to play a soccer game in the style of a video game.

“You can think of it as being like a video game, except that the physical simulation is much more like a real robot,” says Stone, an associate professor of computer science. “It can be as difficult to get the simulated robot to walk as to get a real robot to walk without falling over.”

UT Austin Villa conquered 21 teams and scored 136 uncontested goals to claim first place, thanks to some unusually smart robots. Instead of fine-tuning each robot’s individual movements to produce movement like the other teams, Stone and MacAlpine turned to a method called machine learning.

“Every night we would have the robots practice,” Stone says. “They would try walking one way and score themselves based on how quickly and how stably they could get to the goal, and then the next night they’d do it again, trying different approaches and refining the ones that worked.”

The result was a ‘walk’ that couldn’t be beat. To see how it all works, watch a video here.

And the UT Austin Villa team wasn’t the only winner during the RoboCupSoccer championships. Stone says the competition results in advancements in both technology and science, making the creation of autonomous robots more and more possible.


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