The Netherlands world champions soccer

Tech United's Dutch soccer team became robot soccer world champions last year in João Pessoa, Brazil, in the attractive midsize class. The strong competition, in which the Netherlands competed against countries such as Portugal, China and Iran, among others, is a huge boost in the development of robotics. Many of the techniques invented for the dream team are finding their way into, for example, the healthcare robot, which seems to have a great future. We spoke to the "Louis van Gaal" of the Dutch team: Robin Soetens.

Soetens would first like to clear up two misunderstandings: "In our league, we don't have dolls on the field that are supposed to look like people, but lightning-fast soccer robots on three wheels. Those robots are not controlled from the sidelines, but are programmed in advance so that they can independently play the two 15-minute match.

“Our expectation is that we will eventually be able to beat humans by 2050.”

Among themselves, the team interacts with each other via WiFi, and in addition, a 360˚ omnivision camera at the top provides the "game overview. As team captain, you watch from the sidelines to see how your robot players are doing. Based on what you see, you may then be able to make some adjustments to the robots for the second half."

Strength is in strategy
"The fact that the computers enter the field programmed does not mean that a game with the same players will automatically lead to the same result," Soetens says. "The robots actually just punt. They have a concussion hammer that we can make them shoot the ball very hard. If that happens to shoot once near the valve, the ball has a different trajectory and the whole game already has a different course. The strength of our game lies mainly in strategy and overplaying. Our team masters that like no other, but we also gave that lead away right away this year."

Ultimate goal is bigger
Soetens explains his final words: "At the end of a tournament, when the winner is known, all teams throw everything open and we get to analyze each other's software and hardware to the decimal point. At that point that knowledge belongs to everyone again, so that in order to win a next World Cup you have to develop yourself further anyway. This guarantees continuous development and illustrates once again that the World Cup is a nice trigger, but that the ultimate goal we are striving for is much greater. We want to give the robot a function within our daily lives. It can play a role in work that is boring, dirty or very dangerous."

“In our class, we don't have dolls in the field that should look like human.”

Not without injuries
"We follow FIFA rules for our soccer. For example, a ball may not be clamped off. And in other respects, too, there are clear parallels with familiar soccer. For example, we have an injury almost every game; a broken robot. Our expectation is that we will eventually be able to beat humans in 2050. For the time being, we can only do this regularly when taking penalties: because the shooting hammer is out of sight and you cannot see how and when a robot is going to shoot, you are very often passed. For real competitive advantage, the robot will have to become smarter and mechanically stronger. But that will come."

As sponsor of Tech United, Capital Advertising took care of the communication around the World Cup Robot Soccer 2013 in Eindhoven.

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