Robots Take Field at Science Center

Article excerpt

Pittsburgh's North Shore plays host today to a three-day affair billed as "the world's most Lilliputian sporting event."

The RoboCup 2008 U.S. Open will feature scores of robots ranging in size from about 20 inches tall down to "nanobots" smaller than an amoeba. Most of them will square off in soccer competition.

All events are at the Carnegie Science Center. Winners will proceed to the international competition to be held in Suzhou, China, in July.

"People are working very hard to win these competitions," said Manuela Veloso, the event's co-chair and a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

CMU is one of the nine universities participating in the robot teams. The school is paring with Georgetown this year. CMU won last year's competition in the "small-robot" event.

Started in 1997, RoboCup is intended to foster education and research in artificial intelligence and robotics by using soccer as a testing ground. Ultimately, the goal is to develop humanoid robots capable of beating a human World Cup champion team by 2050. Pittsburgh last hosted the U.S. competition in 2003.

On Saturday, many of the 60 or so participants were preparing their robots for their matches. That included recalibrating robots' sensors to read objects on their mini-soccer fields under light conditions that differed from those back at the lab.

"The Aibo robots should be interesting because they are more robust," said Tucker Balch, the event's co-chair, who is from the Georgia Institute of Technology. The robots, which Sony Corp. no longer makes, sport faster computers than other computers in RoboCup, he said. …