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aiRobots Laboratory of NCKU’s Department of Electrical Engineering Won Three Championships at the RoboWorld Cup at the First Entry・NCKU 2030 for SDGs
aiRobots Laboratory of NCKU’s Department of Electrical Engineering Won Three Championships at the RoboWorld Cup at the First Entry
世界盃智慧機器人運動大賽 成大電機系aiRobots實驗室首次參賽獲三冠王
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          The 24th Federation of International Robot-Soccer Association (FIRA) World Cup Smart Robot Competition in 2019 was held at the Changwon Exhibition Convention Center in Busan, South Korea, from August 12 to 16. A total of 147 people from the Pro. Team and 52 people from the Youth Team represented Taiwan in various robot events. The aiRobots team of the Department of Electrical Engineering, National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), participating in the competition for the first time, won three championships, breaking historical records.

          This competition was established with reference to the World Cup soccer system, and the appearance and movement of the robots in the competition are similar to those of human soccer players. The competition has gradually become popular among adolescents in recent years. Taiwan had 17 teams of 52 people participating in the youth group this year. Professor Li Tzuu Hseng S., the director of the Center for Intelligent Robotics and Automation, NCKU, and a distinguished professor of the Department of Electrical Engineering, is a crucial promoter of participation in the robot soccer game. In 2009, Professor Li was invited by Prof. Jong-Hwan Kim (Dean of the College of Engineering, KAIST), FIRA’s Founding Chairman, to create a 3-versus-3 humanoid robot soccer game named Android Soccer Tournament (AndroSot). Professor Li was the chairman and chief judge of this competition for several years and did not allow his student team to participate in the competition to prevent claims of bias. Because he decided to hand over the position to a young Korean professor this year, NCKU student teams were able to register and participate in the competition for the first time.

          Smart robots can not only play soccer individually but also form teams to participate in matches. Professor Li, with a serious expression but half joking, stated that “both humans and robots will compete in soccer games in full accordance with the rules of the FIFA [Fédération Internationale de Football Association] World Cup in 2050, and the robot team will defeat the human team.” He listed examples to explain why this may be possible: “Armstrong landed on the moon in the early twentieth century, and the idea was proposed half a century before it was accomplished. Another story is about the invention of the computer. Development of a computing processor with memory function only began in the 1940s and 1950s, and the whole computer had the size of two to three rooms at the time. Nevertheless, a parallel operation computer named Deep Blue was able to defeat the world chess champion by 1997.” Professor Li emphasized that no problem exists strategically; the most challenging task is to create an emulation robot that has the same body shape and weight as an ordinary person. Moreover, soccer teams must be found who are willing to compete with robots. In the future, more advanced materials will be available, and robots’ muscle contraction can be made nearly identical to that in humans.

          “Strategy should be emphasized during the competition, and this is the same for baseball and soccer. On the soccer field, people are constantly looking through a tbinocularselescope to provide No. 1, No. 2, or No. 3 team formation changes at any time, but having an individual who observes the whole field is crucial.” Professor Li suggested that robots also have personality; for example, the motors used in mechanical operation of a robot can vary, causing differences in speed or direction of action, with the robot’s default program responding accordingly.

          The main players from NCKU who participated in the competition were four undergraduate students (Wang Chang-Wen, Yang Cheng-Yeh, Liu En-Hao, and Chou I-Ting) and two graduate students (Luan Po-Chien and Chang Chien-Hsin). The AndroSot competition comprised three events: the first challenge event (dribble and attack), second challenge event (free attach), and 3-versus-3 AndroSot Soccer.

          When they returned to Taiwan after the competition, the team members have remained in the aiRobots laboratory to continue researching and modifying the relevant robot programs, even sleeping at the laboratory occasionally. The team’s goal is to participate in the competition again next year and perform even more highly. During a smart robot soccer game, the robots occasionally collide and then fall over before quickly standing up, and some goalkeepers throw themselves at the ball to block it from entering the goal, which is fascinating and has attracted the attention of numerous students. The laboratory has simulation sites, and global lenses are installed on the ceiling. Real-time video is sent to computers next to the soccer field. Subsequently, a computer program automatically formulates a strategy after calculation and analysis and quickly sends instructions to the chip on each robot through wireless transmission.