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Thai students score in the field of soccer robots

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It was the battle of the robots, and "Hanuman" won again. 

Hanuman is a team from the Institute of Field Robotics, King Mongkut's University Of Technology Thonburi (FIBO KMUTT) that recently triumphed at the 2013 Thailand Humanoid Soccer Robots Championship _ the fourth consecutive year the team bagged the big prize at the country's major competition in robotic technology, taking home a 200,000-baht cash prize.

The team will represent Thailand at the World RoboCup 2014: Humanoid KidSize league, in Brazil next year.

Last year the team represented Thailand at the world contest in the Netherlands and made it to the quarter finals.

Team member Wisanu Jutharee said that the team aims to be among the four finalists at the contest in Brazil _ the host of the 2014 Fifa World Cup, too.

"We are preparing for the competition and practising for the new rules to be announced as they have been changed every year."

Each year, the contest tries to promote the technology of robot design by encouraging teams to create robots that look like humans, mostly by having smaller feet smaller and a larger overall size. The humanoid league at the global competition is divided into three categories: children's size (no taller than 60cm), teenager size (around 1m), and adult size (the height of an average fully grown male).

For the humanoid robot soccer game, developers need to create robots that have vision, motion, localisation and locomotion algorithms. The robots have to determine and interact with the goalposts and other robots using a camera attached to its head. The camera locates the position of objects within its field of vision through an algorithm and then determines the action and strategy.

Various motions are needed for robot soccer such as kicking, goalkeeping and getting up autonomously after falling.

In the final round, each team has three robots on the soccer pitch. The total time for each match is 20 minutes.

Nakarin Suppakun, Hanuman team leader and a student at FIBO KMUTT, explained the algorithms they need to programme and design. For vision, which is the most important factor in autonomous robot soccer, a built-in camera is used. "Our robot converts images from the camera frame to the format that allows it to distinguish objects. It recognises the colour of the ball for tracking ,and colour of the goalpost for accurate kicking."

In order to devise strategies, a robot has to know the positions of the ball, goalposts and other players. "Our robot uses the visual data to draw a local map of the objects. It takes action by localisation. For motion, we created actions by adjusting and reading the position value of joints in order to obtain its movement. We observed and copied the motions of people using motion-capture equipment," said Nakarin, adding that the damping controller is designed to eliminate sustained structural oscillation.

"We also improved our vision-based navigation system to be able to cope with the more difficult localisation required in the competition" he said.

For the World RoboCup in Brazil next year, the team is preparing a new strategy, particularly for when a robot is dribbling the ball and needs to make a tight turn, or any other instance that requires an awareness of the dynamics of the ball.

Wisanu explained that even though a humanoid robot cannot totally replace a human, the technology used in robots has been applied to several real-world concepts. Most notably, the knowledge of walking that has been applied to prostheses for people with disabilities.

Wisanu pointed out that in daily life, walking robots are more capable than wheeled ones since they can step over obstacles, but the development is much more difficult.

The necessity of wheeled robots has been much greater than walking ones as they serve in rescue and exploration operations. The caterpillar and conveyer-belt motions mean wheeled robots can move fast, but the disadvantage is that it's hard to move over obstacles.

Thavida Maneewan, president of the Thai Robotics Society, said that the Thailand Humanoid Soccer Robots Championship has been held for four years and is aimed at developing creativity and improving robotics technology among university students. "We also make them ready for completing highly complicated robotic projects," she said.

The nationwide contest supports the country's human resources development so that young Thai people have knowledge based in science, technology, engineering and robotics.

The contest also encourages young people to sharpen their problem-solving skills because certain problems occur during the contest and contestants need to make their robots continue to work within a limited time frame.

In 2015, Thailand will host the World RoboCup. The competition has four major contests: RoboCup Soccer, RoboCup Rescue, RoboCup@Home and RobotCupJunior.

FIBO KMUTT’s Hanuman team beat Bansomdejchaopraya Rajabhat University’s BSRU-III team by seven goals to three in the final.

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