July 2, 2009

Giant Robotics Exposition Descends On Austria

Robots of the world, unite!  The historical city of Graz, Austria is hosting the world's largest robot exposition this week, RoboCup 2009, bringing together some 400 teams of humans and more than 2,000 robots to battle it out in sporting events and rescue simulations.

As event organizers place no specifications on what kind of robots can enter the events, the gaming arenas look something like a scene from Star Wars.  Robots of all colors, shapes and sizes"”some bipeds, some quadrupeds, others on wheels"”perform in dance competitions, serve beverages and duke it out on a mini soccer field.

The five-day event kicked-off on Wednesday when a scissor-wielding robot clipped the ribbon during the opening ceremonies. City officials were chauffeured to the event in a charter bus with no driver.  The bus was guided by a high-tech laser system that continuously scans its perimeter and uses GPS to find the quickest route to its destination.

Hosted this year by the prestigious Graz University of Technology, the event is intended to be more than just a crowd-attracting novelty.  Much more, says event president Manuela Veloso, it is a scientific project.  Since the first event in 1997, RoboCup has represented the frontier of research in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. Stretching the limits of robotic capabilities is one of the event's organizers' major driving goals, said Veloso.

Teams from 44 different countries are divided into junior and senior classes for the competition, with the former category consisting of programmers between the ages of 10 and 19.   In addition to the contests, event organizers also offer ongoing technology conferences for electronic engineers and robotics experts.

The event first event took place in 1997 in Nagoya, Japan, and has since been held in Stockholm, Sweden; Melbourne, Australia; Atlanta, U.S.A. and Suzhou, China.


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