Robots to you and me are probably mostly arms and other disembodied bits, but the humanoid robot is alive and well in fiction, in Asia — and at the international soccer competition called RoboCup.

It’s coming up in Brazil this month.

The players are robots. These are not robots programmed to play soccer, though. These are robots programmed to learn. They’ve learned to stand, to balance, to walk, and eventually to play soccer. You know, cooperative multi-robot and multi-agent systems in dynamic adversarial environments. The goal is pretty straightforward: to compete with human WordlCup soccer champions in a soccer game in 2050… and win.

The higher-level object is to further the cause of artificial intelligence, and it seems to be succeeding. When the first RoboCup was held in 1997, the robots tended to cluster together and be uncertain what to do with the ball. They didn’t get the concept. By now, observers are convinced that they are seeing some form of strategic behavior on the part of the electronic soccer players.

45 countries are participating in the 2014 RoboCup, and there’s still time to pick a team to root for.

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