Human/Robot Soccer Team to be shown off during anniversary

This year, Carnegie Mellon?s Robotics Institute will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary with four days packed full of events, ranging from the Robot Hall of Fame inductions to a multitude of seminars and demonstrations. The University itself will be well represented by its faculty, undergraduate art show, and researchers.

The CORAL Research Group will be showcasing its modified Segway Robotic Mobility Platform (RMP) in a demonstration soccer game. Two teams, each consisting of a robot and Segway-riding human, will compete.

On one team will be Jeremy Searock, while the position of his opponent will be open to inexperienced members of the audience, with Yang Gu serving as backup. The use of volunteers reinforces the assertion that minimal training is required to work with the robots.

Professor Manuela Veloso heads the Segway RMP Robot team, which consists of Systems Scientist Brett Browning, post-doctoral fellow Paul Rybski, masters student Jeremy Searock, and doctoral student Yang Gu. Several other contributors have also been important factors in the success of the research. The project has been in the works since August 2003, and this will be its first full-game demonstration. The test field of soccer was chosen because it is not home to frequent life-or-death situations. It is safe ground, despite the Segway?s ability to manage difficult terrain and inclement weather.

The fully-autonomous robots have integrated perception, cognition, and are capable of many different actions. Deviating from the norm, the group?s robots are independent; instead of receiving commands from a human, they will function as peers. They will be able to collaborate and communicate with team members to be successful in the game.

In the future, Professor Veloso hopes to see applications of this research in the home: robots that can return to the supermarket to pick up forgotten items, walk a dog, or handle household chores. She warns, however, that the robots are not infallible, referencing a quotation from the movie I, Robot, where Detective Spooner (played by Will Smith) asks a robot named Sonny, ?Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot take a blank canvas and turn it into a masterpiece?? Undeterred, Sonny responds, ?Can you?? Professor Veloso emphasizes, ?We are not perfect ourselves [either].? While robots may not always make the correct decision, they do what they are programmed to do, making choices based on their flexible algorithms and not on a cultural background or mores. Fortunately, they can learn, fail, and persist.

The game will take place in Rangos Hall in the University Center on October 12 from 10 am?4 pm.