I have long been fascinated by the field of Artificial Intelligence. Everything about making computers more human is interesting to me. One particular challenge put forth to the AI community particularly intrigues me. It's called RoboCup. The challenge is:
By the year 2050, develop a team of fully autonomous humanoid robots that can win against the human world soccer champion team.
This one challenge has fueled years of research into robotics and robotic vision and intelligent reasoning and planning algorithms. I don't care that much for the hardware aspect of things. I never have. But I love the algorithmic software side of the challenge. To allow programmers to start immediately on the software half of the challenge, a robot simulation environment was developed. Each "bot" gets information from its "sensors" in the virtual world and can then choose ways of moving: walking, sprinting, kicking, etc. There is even a system of fatigue built in so that a bot cannot be sprinting all the time.
Some of the teamwork displayed by the best teams is really unbelievable. It feels like you're watching a real soccer match. Here, watch the final from the 2007 competition and tell me that's not like real soccer (i.e. for the most part boring except for exceptional pass plays resulting in shots on goal):
But get this! The RoboCup Simulation League has just added another dimension! That's right. A 3-D robot soccer simulator! Not only that, but they've gone ahead and made the robots humanoid. For the most part it's taken the competing teams (all in academia, of course) a full year to even get the little buggers to walk around without falling over all the time, let alone go after the ball. And, as you are about to see, they haven't mastered it yet.
Check out this video from the 2007 Finals in the 3-D division. There is something about this video that makes me laugh hysterically.
Check out the goal scored with 5:30 left on the video clock. I can't watch that without bursting into laughter.
I have yet to be able to actually build and run the simulation server on my computer, but as soon as I do, I'm going to start playing around with it, to see if I can get a robot to walk. Could anything be more geeky? I don't think so...