Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Australian victory in Germany

More football related blogging I'm afraid - sorry about that - but that's where my focus is at the moment.

Let's be honest. Australia probably won't bring home the world cup, BUT, I am happy to say that all is not lost. Some Aussie robot geeks have made sure we'll at least bring something back. Australian teams took out first and second place in the 4-legged league of Robocup. The NUBots from The University of Newcastle trounced UNSWift (The University of New South Wales) seven goals to three in the final, to take out the championship of the most popular robocup league.

Unlike the human version of the game, Australia is in fact a major player on the world robot soccer stage. UNSW have won the competition a number of times over the 10 year history of the competition, while the NUBots (who competed for their fourth time this year), benefited early from their close ties with the UNSW team. When I last competed as part of the Melbourne Uni team in 2002, we came fourth after being narrowly defeated by Newcastle for third place. UNSW came second that year, after losing to Carnegie Mellon who are also (quite predictably), big players in all leagues of robocup.

I am not sure why Australians perform so well at robocup. We actually do enjoy a good international reputation in general for robotics research, which might be surprising to some, but our success in this competition is somewhat disproportionate to this. Ultimately, winning robocup is testimony to very sound engineering, and good project management. I doubt, however, that Newcastle will get around to publishing any research outcomes from their win, which is where questions of its value arise. Still, it's good to know there are competitions like robocup, that force researchers to actually make something work more than once.


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