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Last Updated: Friday, 14 April 2006, 07:32 GMT 08:32 UK
Robotic footballers have a ball
By Jonathan Fildes
BBC News science and technology reporter

Robot footballers push an orange golf ball
Graceful runs are controlled by a central computer
A football tournament between teams of robots has been won by students from Plymouth University.

The third robot football UK championships ended in defeat for organisers Warwick University.

The event was aimed at helping the students improve the skills of their robots ahead of the Robot World Cup in Germany in June.

The machine shoot-out was held over two days at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London.

Nottingham, Oxford and the Open University also fielded teams.

Each university has to abide by strict guidelines set out by the Federation of International Robosoccer Association (Fira).

Two halves

The box-like robots are modelled around the same body but can be adapted by a team, to make it smaller or lower.

The wheeled machines have scoops to push an orange golf ball, used as the football, around the pitch.

They also have vision systems to spot their team-mates, opponents and ball.

Once they are on the pitch, they are thinking using the computer
Aris Karcanias, Warwick University
Game play is decided by a computer on the side of the pitch.

Once in the stadium, the miniature Maradonas show off the work put in by the teams over the last year.

"They are completely autonomous," said Aris Karcanias, one of the Warwick team members. "Once they are on the pitch, they are thinking using the computer."

The five-a-side team's graceful runs and challenging tackles are all watched by a camera that feeds information into a computer programme.

The creative brain of the team then makes a decision where a robot should make its pass or move. The information is transmitted to the robots by Bluetooth or by radio.

Once the numbers have been crunched and the decision made, it is just a question of which team of automatons puts the most golf balls in the back of the net.

It is not just the winners of the competition that will be off to Dortmund in Germany in June for the official Robot World Cup.

Ideas from all of the teams competing will be used to make a five-a-side squad that they hope will be able to stop the might of teams like South Korea.

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