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Thursday, July 2, 1998 Published at 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK


RoboCup kicks off

The Cambridge RoboCup team

Only eight teams remain in France 98 but elsewhere in Paris this week 80 teams of robots are battling it out in RoboCup '98. Our science editor Dr David Whitehouse reports

England may have been eliminated from the World Cup but national hopes now rest with a squad of 15cm-tall machines constructed by scientists at Cambridge University.

The computer-controlled robots can intercept the ball and, hopefully, score goals.

The BBC's Sue Nelson reports
The England team have a secret weapon, a goalkeeper who can fire the ball back using an air-cannon.
Dr Antony Rowston explains
There is also a robot with legs built by Sony, and a computerised commentator giving a blow-by-blow account of the games.

Scientists say that as well as stretching existing technology, the tournament will lead to new developments - particularly in getting robots to work together.

[ image:  ]
The biggest problem at the moment is the time delay between the computer analysing the state of play and the orders being sent out to the robots.

'It means that you can get a lot of robots diving for where the ball was, rather than where it is,' said Dr Antony Rowstron of Cambridge University.

RoboCup organisers admit that their competition is ambitious given the state of robot technology today but they add that in 50 years they may have teams of robots who could outplay humans.

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