Robots have long been thought of as either impractical toys for the burgeoning tech scene, or visionary specimens of a science fiction future. From Twilight Zone and the Jetsons to Stanley Kubrick’s Hal 500 and Michael Bay’s Transformers, the idea of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) has captivated the human imagination since the first computer chip was invented and the first motherboard built. Technology, it seems, is finally catching up with the vision. Home robots are the latest trend in technology engineering, and while these robots don’t have the sort of free will and artificial intelligence we’re accustomed to seeing in books and films, they make our domestic duties easier, not to mention fun.
Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto
Mr. Roboto was a prog-pop song written by the musical group Styx in 1983. Translated into English domo arigato means: “Thank you very much, Mr. Robot.” Today, this pop catchphrase is a fitting epitaph and a swan song considering all of the domestic work that robots are doing around the house. From LawnBott Robot Lawn Mowers and Roomba Vacuum Cleaners to mobile alarm clocks and Aquabot Pool Cleaners, robots have invaded our homes to help with all the chores that we don’t want to do. Many of these robots are battery powered, use green technology and operate by a complex system of sensors.
When science fiction first dreamed up the idea of robots, they’re supposed to be used for menial tasks and to help make life easier for the human race. So far, so good. The Aquabot can clean both an in-ground and above ground pool in under an hour. There’s been no shocking news stories about robot self-awareness, a Roomba revolt or group of disgruntled Aquabots waging war. However, it does seem that some robots have taken a fancy to soccer, as these mechanical gadgets are doing their best David Beckham and Christiano Ronaldo impersonation by competing in their own version of the World Cup. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly, and this isn’t a Ray Bradbury or Isaac Asimov story.
The Rise of Robot Footballers
Chances are when you were watching the London Olympics, you had no idea that Bristol, England was hosting the FIRA RoboWorld Cup. Twenty-six teams, many of which were from esteemed robotics laboratories, competed in a host of events which included sprinting, basketball and weightlifting. Soccer, however, being the most globally recognized and beautiful game, was the highlight of the Bristol event. This robot World Cup competition had enough heated skirmishes, slide tackles, strikes and acrobatic corner kicks to keep every action fan happy until then.
Watching the game, you get the feeling these robots might not be vacuuming or mowing the lawn at all, but practicing headers, bicycle kicks and elaborate soccer formations all day long. In other words, they’re a different race of robots than the ones that are happily and complacently helping us with our domestic duties. One day the Bristol robots are winning the Golden Boot in soccer, and the next day they’re ruling the world. Isn’t that always how it plays out in those science fiction stories?