Bend It Like Robo-Beckham

from the the-passion-of-the-contest dept

It’s amazing what a little competition can do to stir a ton of creative energies. Just in the last day or so we’ve had articles that talk about the X-prize for the first group of amateurs who can make it to space and a DARPA-sponsored contest to build autonomous automobiles to win a race. Both contests are stirring up passions and creating incentives for people to come up with some incredibly innovative solutions to tricky problems. One of the most well-known of these sorts of contests is the ever-popular RoboCup, a robotic soccer match, designed to push researchers to build better and better robots each year. Salon is running a very interesting writeup about the “passion” of the people behind the robots. The article is written by someone working on a book about robotics, who was skeptical of the whole idea – but was quite surprised at how his opinion changed after seeing the passion behind those building the robots to “just get them to work” and to figure out what went wrong when they don’t. The article also mentions that the goal of the RoboCup contest is to field a team of robots who can play against the human WorldCup champions and win. What’s most interesting to me is not so much the robots, but their reflection of the humans who work on them. The people building the robots are so driven by the competition and to make these robots perform that it says something about human nature – something I wonder if a robot will ever be able to emulate.

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