August 10, 2023

The eyes of the world right now are on New Zealand, where some of the planet’s best athletes are duking it out for the Women’s World Cup. 

But did you know that there’s an actual event that  many call “the world cup of robot soccer”? 

For more than 25 years, robot soccer has helped to advance the fields of robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence, and served as a pathway for students to get involved in these areas. 

And as you’ll see, women have been huge contributors to the game. In honor of the women’s World Cup we put together this list of everything that makes robot soccer great. 

  1. The first robot soccer competition, the international RoboCup, was held in 1997. While there are other competitions, it remains the largest such event, and draws teams from around the world to compete.
  2. The original goal of the organizers was to foster the development of a robot that could defeat a human by 2050. The robots are getting better, according to IEEE Spectrum
  3. It’s an incredibly international competition. The first event was held in Japan, with recent events in Thailand, Canada, Australia, France and Germany.
  4. It has multiple entry categories for robots large and small, and for robots that have wheels or with humanoid shapes. 
  5. The 2023 RoboCup featured 2,500 people, and 2,000 robots. 
  6. Gender diversity has contributed to many successes. A recent “Women in Engineering” column in the March 2023 edition of IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine notes that the kicking algorithm used by many teams was developed by a woman at the University of Bremen in 2010. 

So, how close are RoboCup teams to the goal of developing a robot that can beat a human? Judge for yourself from the highlights of this friendly match between the Portugal-based Vitoria SC women’s team Tech United Eindhoven. Here’s a hint: Vitoria went easy on them.


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