University of Bonn Soccer Robots Defend World Championship Title

The humanoid robots of Team NimbRo from the University of Bonn were victorious in the AdultSize category at the RoboCup in Bordeaux.

RoboCup 2023 - Humanoid soccer robots representing NimbRo (left) and HERoEHS (ri
RoboCup 2023 - Humanoid soccer robots representing NimbRo (left) and HERoEHS (right) in the RoboCup World Championship final in Bordeaux Photo: Uni Bonn/Autonomous Intelligent Systems all images in original size .
At the RoboCup World Championship in the French city of Bordeaux, the University of Bonn’s Team NimbRo won the soccer tournament in the Humanoid AdultSize category and thus successfully defended their title. The humanlike soccer-playing robots had been developed by the Autonomous Intelligent Systems lab at the Institute for Computer Science. They competed with improved software and were able to win numerous duels and dribble the ball quickly into the goal.

The RoboCup World Championship in Bordeaux was originally scheduled for 2020 but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Team NimbRo, which is based in the Institute for Computer Science VI at the University of Bonn, whipped four of its very own humanoid soccer robots, each around 135 cm tall, into shape in its bid to defend the title that it had won the previous year in the Thai capital Bangkok. In particular, the robot software has been improved, for example, by speeding up visual perception to grasp the game situation in real time, by revising gait generation to regain balance even in the face of severe interference, and by making kicking movements more flexible.

In the tournament, the NimbRo team clearly dominated the international competition. In three preliminary round matches, 22:0 goals were scored. In the final, the robots from Bonn came up against Team HERoEHS from Hanyang University in South Korea. NimbRo won almost all the one-on-ones, dribbled the ball mazily around their opponents and lashed it into their opponents’ goal. 4:0 after the first half, the final ultimately ended 8:0 to Team NimbRo.

In addition to the main competition, there was a "drop-in tournament," where robots from different squads were put together in teams at random. Here too, the team from Bonn ran out clear winners, scoring 26 goals and conceding none at all.

There were also technical contests that tested skills that will be important for playing the game in the future. These provided an opportunity for the University of Bonn’s robots to prove that they can regain their balance even after sustaining heavy knocks, can receive a pass and score a goal from it, and can chip the ball over an obstacle.

"Even though the other teams had made their own systems much better, the soccer-playing robots from my team-NimbRo-managed to defend their world title without conceding any goals," says Sven Behnke, head of the Autonomous Intelligent Systems working group in the Institute for Computer Science VI at the University of Bonn.

RoboCup is an international initiative with the goal of promoting the advancement of intelligent robots through competitions.. The aim by 2050 is to create humanoid soccer robots capable of beating the human world champions of the day. "Robots that can move around quickly and stably on two legs will be important for any number of uses in everyday situations in the future, such as delivering mail and helping people who need assistance," Prof. Behnke says.