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In a weekly column, alternately written by Lucien Engelen, Mary Fiers, Maarten Steinbuch, Carlo van de Weijer, Tessie Hartjes, and Auke Hoekstra, Innovation Origins tries to find out what the future will look like. All six contributors – sometimes accompanied by guest bloggers – are working on solving the problems of our time. Everything to make Tomorrow Good. This Sunday, it‘s Maarten Steinbuch’s turn, about Robot Football. Here are all the previously published columns.

Yes! We’ve done it again: world football champion! With robots, that is. With our TechUnited team from the Eindhoven University of Technology. For the fourth time, and in a beautiful rhythm as well: 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018. This time, we played the finals in Canada against the Portuguese team of Cambada, which we have known for a long time already. Together with the Chinese Water team, we have been the top three in the world for a number of years.

Like every year, the rules and conditions of the play had changed again. For example, the pitch had become twice as big, which almost automatically gave strategy and team play more space.

However, there is still a great deal to be developed. For example, we do not yet adjust our strategy during the match. When the opponent is covering a man, we still react in a pre-programmed way. We can learn a lot here from the so-called simulation league: there, two computers are playing against each other. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is already standard there: the opponent learns during the game. That will be our next step.

We also apply the knowledge we gain during the development of our robots and their software over a period of one year in other research projects. In this way, we have become experts in the field of ‘world modelling’, i.e. understanding and modelling the world as it is seen by the robot around itself. We apply this in our research for autonomous cars, other Automated Guided Vehicles (for suitcases, for example), and drones for inspection of agricultural land. We also have a PhD student working to make an autonomous hospital bed! In my imagination, I can already see the situation, in the hallway of a hospital of the future ☺

The use of our knowledge for service robots is also an important development. The Amigo and Sergio robots are being developed by our team into real care robots. They will soon enable us to stay at home until an older age, even if we need help with our everyday needs. By the way, our Amigo and Sergio have reached third place in the @Home League in Canada: a medal for them as well!

Besides, of course, it’s nice that the Belgians are one lap further in the ‘real’ World Cup, but honestly, I would have preferred more orange in Russia. Luckily, we still have our robots!