Animals vs Robots

Top Moments from the 2015 Robot Football World Cup

Highlights from the contest in Hefei, China

2 min read

A group of small half-human height robots on a similarly scaled-down indoor soccer pitch, each moving towards a small orange ball.
The B-Human team take on the Nao-Devils. Image credit: RoboCup
The logo for How We Get To Next's Robots vs Animals month, showing an illustration of a Boston Dynamics robotic animal

The dramatic finale of RoboCup 2015 was held in Hefei, Chinathe 18th installment of the super adorable robot sports tournament established in 1997.

The aim of the RoboCup is simple: to accelerate robotics development so that by 2050 a team of robots can play and win a regulation soccer match against the winning team of the (human) World Cup.

We’re not there yet. Indeed, we’re quite a ways off from robot players being able to properly dribble the ball, or even reliably kick it without falling over. Nonetheless, here are highlights from five of the best matches this year.

1. Nao-Devils vs. B-Human

First, check out a preliminary game between two German teams–the Nao-Devils from the Technical University of Dortmund and B-Human from the University of Bremen.

Start watching around 14:45 for a cracking shot and goal from the halfway line by B-Human, which the Nao-Devil goalie is powerless to stop.

2. Tech United vs. Water

The Dutch players of Tech United take on China’s Water in this match, and the highlight is one of the goals from 15:30–a Chinese midfielder passes to a defender rushing from space, who cleanly volleys the ball into the top left corner of the Dutch team’s net.

Tech United pull a goal back, but it’s not enough. The Dutch lose to Water 4″”1, possibly in part due to China’s home field advantage.

3. Bold Hearts (Exhibition)

Part of the charm of the RoboCup is that it has different size classes. The Bold Hearts, from the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom, submitted this film as part of its entry into the KidSize competition.

Just as with humans, robot players that are smaller in stature (and have a center of gravity closer to the floor) make for a faster, higher-tempo game in comparison to one with larger players.

This video also shows (from 1:20) how difficult it is to build a good robot goalie: They tend to fall over too soon in anticipation of kicks, and once they’re on the ground it takes them too long to get back up again to block the next shot.

4. Tsinghua Hepheastus (exhibition)

On the other hand, here’s the Tsinghua Hepheastus team from Tsinghua University, Beijing, in a video for qualification into the AdultSize category.

Tune in around minute 1:25 to see just how clunky these bigger robots can be–it takes nearly 20 seconds to get into position for a single kick. Not quite ready to take on Lionel Messi in a flesh match”¦

5. B-Human vs. UNSW

Finally, here’s something nobody (or wait, everybody?) wants to see in a game–diving. The final match between B-Human (again) and an Australian team from the University of New South Wales is marred by an early dive from one of the Aussie players (0:08).

That doesn’t prevent the Aussies from lifting the trophy at the end, however, as they successfully defend their world title with a score of 3″”1.

The logo for How We Get To Next's Robots vs Animals month, showing an illustration of a Boston Dynamics robotic animal

How We Get To Next was a magazine that explored the future of science, technology, and culture from 2014 to 2019. This article is part of our Robots vs Animals section, which examines human attempts to build machines better than nature’s. Click the logo to read more.