Tech United recaptures European robot soccer title in Portugal | Mirage News
The European robot soccer title is back in Eindhoven. After losing the European Championship final in 2019 – the last time the tournament could take place before the coronapandemic struck – student team Tech United now won 13-1 in the final against the other Dutch team VDL Robot Sports. The soccer robots became European champions in Portugal for the sixth time and are once again top favorites for the World Cup, which takes place in Bangkok from July 10.
For three years, the soccer robots could not measure their strengths against real opponents. But the development of the technology, even during the corona pandemic, was pursued full steam ahead by the students and researchers of Tech United, unlike some other teams. That paid off as a competitive advantage during the European Championships in Portugal.
“Many of the new developments of recent years, such as being able to switch strategies quickly, executing the “human dribble,” and handling bouncing balls better have now fallen into place,” said Jorrit Olthuis, team leader of Tech United.
Tech United’s soccer robots (orange) in the final against VDL Robot Sports. Photo: Whale’s Mouth.
Fast combination game
In the final, Tech United – in the tradition of Dutch total soccer – shows fast combination play with beautiful passes and well-placed shots on goal. Soon the Eindhoven students manage to increase the score thanks to goals from the robots ‘Van der Tandwiel’ and ‘De Moer’. The team doesn’t waste any time and goes into the locker room with a score of 7-0.
After halftime, the Tech United robots score six more goals. The VDL team is also rewarded for their good positional play by converting one of the many chances into a goal. This results in the final score of 13-1, which allows Tech United to call themselves European Champions for the sixth time.
F1 of robotics
Make no mistake, when Tech United’s fast, black machines race across the pitch, making a 1-2 play or taking the place of an injured goalkeeper, they do so completely independently. The team can only watch. But their continuous development of software and hardware does make the robots better and better each year.
And that development is important for robotics in a broad sense. Robot soccer is a kind of Formula 1 of autonomous robotics. Just as innovations from Formula 1 lead to improvements in passenger cars, innovations from soccer robots are being used to improve robots for care and rescue.
Against a professional women’s team, the soccer robots won after penalty kicks. Photo: Whale’s Mouth
Professional women’s team
To conclude the tournament, Tech United’s robots played the final against a professional women’s team from the Portuguese soccer club Vitória SC. The women’s team started off strong and managed to build up a lead of no less than three goals with quick and agile actions. Gradually Tech United gains momentum and regular play ends in a tie of 4-4.
A penalty-shootout has to bring the decision and Tech United starts with a beautiful series of four penalty kicks. The ladies shoot three into the net, making Tech United the winner. It is fair to say that the footballers of Vitória SC are by no means playing at full strength, giving the robots a lot of space for their actions.
Nevertheless, this match is a nice milestone in view of RoboCup’s ultimate goal of winning the human World Cup in 2050. The RoboCup is the global tournament for autonomous (self-directed) robots, taking place this year in Bangkok. Starting July 10, the soccer robots will defend their 2019 world title. Can they take their sixth world title this year?
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