Virtual Soccer A Serious Game

Sunday, 10 September, 2000

In international competition, the CSIRO's Cyberoos have finished 9th in the Simulation League of the 4th Robot World Cup (RoboCup) in Melbourne.

RoboCup is a soccer competition for robots: big, small and virtual. The Cyberoos are a team of virtual software agents who play their games on a large computer monitor.

While an international soccer competition for artificially intelligent (AI) robots sounds like fun, there is a more serious side to it. Scientists are working on computer systems for coordinating complex logistic problems like large-scale emergencies. For instance, with the current bushfires in the USA, there is a need to monitor and coordinate the actions of a large number of agencies and individuals in a complex, changing environment.

International AI researchers looked for a common environment in which skills could be developed through competition, choosing soccer. Many of the features of soccer are relevant to handling emergencies including: well defined rules, a changing playing environment and the need for players to work together with a common strategy while being flexible enough to adapt to unexpected events.

Further, researchers are developing ways to make computers reason about strategies, learn from past experience and develop courses of action for particular situations with unknown variables.

In RoboCup, as in real life, players have only localised and imprecise information about the state of the field and a short time to respond. They must make decisions while collaborating with a team. As challenges are overcome, researchers will be tackling more realistic disaster recovery and rescue problems as in a recent offshoot of RoboCup, 'RoboCup Rescue'.

In RoboCup Rescue, computers and robots plan and execute rescue operations for simulated disasters such as bushfires or earthquakes.

This is the third outing for the Cyberoos at the international level. Over 40 teams contested the simulation league and the Cyberoos were one of the 16 finalists. In the finals, the Cyberoos won through the first round, but were defeated 2-0 by Sharif Arvand of Iran in the second round.

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