Thursday, April 26, 2018
Business

One day, a robot could hoist the World Cup

PHILADELPHIA — When robots first started playing soccer, it was a challenge for them just to see the ball. And to stay upright.

But the machines participating in this month's international RoboCup tournament are making passes and scoring points. Their ultimate goal? To beat the human World Cup champs within the next 35 years.

"It's hard to predict what will happen in 2050, but we are on the right path," said event co-founder Manuela Veloso, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

A week after Sunday's World Cup title game in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, between Germany and Argentina, teams from 45 countries will face off at RoboCup about 1,200 miles away, in the Brazilian coastal town of Joao Pessoa.

The "players," which range from life-sized humanoids to wheeled objects the size of soccer balls, compete in size-based divisions on miniature indoor fields.

While certainly fun to watch, organizers say the annual competition isn't just about creating kicking machines. It's about teaching the fully autonomous robots to make quick, smart decisions while working together in a changing environment.

Those algorithms can translate off the field into technology like self-driving cars or delivery drones, said University of Pennsylvania engineering professor Dan Lee.

Lee, who directs Penn's robotics lab in Philadelphia, has been the head "coach" of the school's RoboCup soccer teams since 2002. Back then, the games resembled those played by 5-year-old children, Lee said.

"They would all cluster together," he said of the robots. "Whoever got the ball would have a hard time figuring out which way to kick the ball."

Now, it's like watching 10-year-olds execute basic athletic skills and strategies, Lee said.

Just like humans, the robots have to "practice" as students monitor (but do not control) their actions in the lab.

When RoboCup began in 1997, Veloso said, most robotics research focused on the abilities of single machines, such as NASA's Sojourner rover on Mars. The hope with RoboCup is to emphasize machine collaboration, she said.

The team from George Mason University in Virginia wants to teach its players to work together in real time — a crucial skill for using droids to respond to disasters or emergencies. Students plan to train their 18-inch-tall humanoids through field demonstrations immediately before each game.

Comments
Yelp search results reflected racist stereotype that Asian American restaurants serve cat and dog

Yelp search results reflected racist stereotype that Asian American restaurants serve cat and dog

A strange thing happened when typing "dog menu" into the restaurant ratings website and app Yelp. It automatically generated suggested searches. There were dog massage, hot dogs, pet groomers. Also: "dog meat." But it got more disturbing. Take Yelp...
Updated: 12 hours ago
As more emotional support animals fly on U.S. airlines, Congress eyes new ways to tighten the leash

As more emotional support animals fly on U.S. airlines, Congress eyes new ways to tighten the leash

WASHINGTON — With hundreds of thousands of emotional support animals taking to the skies on U.S. airlines, Congress may start pulling a tighter leash.Two new legislative options emerged this week to address a hairy issue for American Airlines, Southw...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Duke Energy announces new Florida leadership

Duke Energy announces new Florida leadership

ST. PETERSBURG — The head of Duke Energy Florida is leaving his post to take a new role with the utility’s parent company June 1, the company announced on Wednesday.Harry Sideris, 47, was appointed this week to serve as vice president and chief distr...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Comcast challenges Murdoch with rival bid for U.K.-based Sky

LONDON — U.S. media giant Comcast on Wednesday offered $30.7 billion for Sky PLC, topping a bid from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox and setting up a bidding war for Britain’s biggest satellite TV company.Comcast said it would pay approximately $17...
Published: 04/25/18
Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Pasco County

Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Pasco County

TRINITY — Pasco County will be getting its first Sprouts Farmers Market, the organic grocery chain announced Wednesday. The new store will open at the Village at Mitchell Ranch on State Road 54 and Little Road. Officials with the speciality st...
Published: 04/25/18
Circle K launching own gas at eight Hillsborough locations

Circle K launching own gas at eight Hillsborough locations

TAMPA — Circle K is converting the gas station portion of eight of its Hillsborough locations to Circle K fuel. Previously, the fuel was provided by other brands, such as Shell. The new Circle K branding also brings with it the Canadian-owned conveni...
Published: 04/25/18
Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida has the strongest residential building codes among 18 coastal states, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Florida’s rating is 95, almost three times higher than lowest-ranked Texas. Other states wit...
Published: 04/25/18
Study: Tampa Bay homes in once ‘redlined’ neighborhoods worth half those in other areas

Study: Tampa Bay homes in once ‘redlined’ neighborhoods worth half those in other areas

Times staffRedlining’ — banks’ refusal to make mortgage loans in certain areas — still has a huge effect on housing values even though the practice was banned 50 years ago. According to Zillow, a Tampa Bay house in a once-redlined area is worth less ...
Published: 04/25/18
Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

NOW OPEN: TEX-MEX CHAIN CHUY’SThe Austin, Texas-based Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opened its first Tampa restaurant on Tuesday, giving away free Chuy’s for two for a year to the first 50 customers. I know, we missed it, it’s a bummer, but we can still visit...
Published: 04/25/18
Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Elected officials have talked about relocating City Hall from the downtown bluff for a good 30 years. Now there’s a jolt of urgency to actually do it.Voters backed a referendum in November that essentially greenlighted the $55 million re...
Published: 04/25/18