First the Olympic Games, now it's time for Great Britain to welcome the robots

Issue date: 13 August 2012


FIRA RoboWorld Cup takes place in Bristol from 20 to 25 August 2012

No sooner has the curtain come down on London 2012 than Great Britain prepares to welcome its next international sporting event – this time with robots as the competitors.

Sports such as football, basketball and weightlifting will come under the spotlight as the world's most advanced robots and their creators go head-to-head at the FIRA RoboWorld Cup, taking place in the UK for the first time from 20 to 25 August.

A total of 27 teams will be competing, with 202 participants from across the world coming to pit their robotic skills against each other.

Much like the Olympic Games, organising bodies had to bid for the competition and Bristol emerged victorious thanks to the work of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) - the largest robotics lab of its type in the UK, which is a joint research partnership between UWE Bristol and the University of Bristol.

Competitors are coming from as far afield as Mexico, Canada, India, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan. The UK has two teams competing – one from the BRL and the second from the University of Plymouth.

Hundreds of spectators are expected to watch the events unfold in At-Bristol, one of the UK's leading science and discovery centres, as top roboticists test their newest technology and hope to finish on the podium.

The most highly-anticipated category is for humanoid robots which can walk and run. 'HuroCup' events include football, basketball, wall climbing, weightlifting and marathon running. These robots can be up to 130cm in height and weigh up to 30kg.

Other categories include 'MiroSot' – a five or 11-a-side football game for wheeled robots. An external vision system tracks the position of the robots and the ball, relaying this information to another computer which then calculates the next move.

While it's not quite as fast-paced as events in the Olympic Stadium, organisers promise that it will be a spectacle in its own right as spectators marvel at pioneering mechanical, electronic and advanced artificial intelligence technology in action.

Dr Guido Herrmann, from the University of Bristol, led the BRL bid and hopes members of the public will make the most of the opportunity to see world-leading robotics on their doorstep for free.

He said: “We are looking forward to welcoming teams from around the world to Bristol. The competition promises to be both exciting and insightful, pushing the boundaries of robotics to the limit. This will be a fantastic opportunity for the public to see just what autonomous robots are capable of. Although very different to the Olympics, it's another opportunity to show the world just what Great Britain is capable of – both as event hosts and being pioneers of engineering.”

A major scientific conference, the 2012 Joint FIRA-TAROS Congress, will run alongside the tournament, bringing together the world's leading experts in robotics. The TAROS Industry Day will also be held at BRL on the Frenchay Campus of UWE Bristol on 23 August, with talks by key robotics industry figures and exhibitors from leading companies. The event is organised with UK's Knowledge Transfer Networks (KTN) on Robotics and the British Automation & Robot Association (BARA).

Members of the public are invited to a public lecture which takes place on Tuesday, 21 August, at 19:00 in the Wills Memorial Building. Professor Shuzhi Sam Ge, from The National University of Singapore and the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, will discuss the 'Era of Social Robotics' and how social robots might one day be able to improve services, healthcare and productivity.

Professor Jong-Hwan Kim, President of FIRA, said, “It is my great pleasure to have FIRA RoboWorld Cup and the joint FIRA-TAROS Congress held in the UK for the first time, especially as it's the birthplace of modern football. Football has created a unique culture and I believe that robot sport can contribute to the future of technology through encouraging young scientists and engineers to get together during the event and share ideas to advance robotics.”

The public are welcome to enjoy the action from Wednesday, 22 August to Saturday, 25 August. For details of the schedule, please see the At-Bristol website. Entry to the RoboWorld Cup is free.

The event has been sponsored by The Institution of Engineering Technology (IET), The Office of Naval Research Global (ONRG), Regional Educational Legacy in Arts and Youth Sport (RELAYS), Team South West, The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and Maxon Motor UK.

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