RoboCup Simulation, Image credit RoboCup

The month of Robo Soccer is upon us! That’s right, in mid-July China will host the 18th annual Robot Soccer Cup. It’s just like the Soccer World Cup, but totally different, because all the participants are robots.

There are 5 leagues within the Robot Soccer Cup of competitions in the RoboCup:

1. The Simulation League:

This is the boring but practical league. Teams use AIs to compete virtually, as a method of working on low level humanoid robot control and simulated behavior. So, basically, this is the sandbox where you figure out how to make better robots, so YAY!

RoboCup Simulation, Image credit RoboCup

2. The Tiny League:

Okay, so they prefer to be called the Small Sized League, but whatever. TINY ROBOTS! Playing Soccer! And they are very tiny. Standing no more than half a foot tall, these pint-sized robots do their processing off-field, by dedicated computers that communicate the positions of the ‘bots and other objects on the field through the wifi.

Srsly. Why are we not all flying to China to see this in person?!

Okay, so tiny league seems a little complicated what with the dots indicating robot positions to an overhead camera, although just for the record, but you should check them out because the tiny robots may be the best players, the real show stoppers (the humanoid ‘bots) are a little more….tippy over.

3. The Humanoid League:

This is by far the showiest of the leagues. These autonomous robots have to have a human-like body and human-like senses to play soccer against each other. Just like real soccer!1 WIN! Within this league there are three sizes: child, teen and adult. Like in the tiny league, humans do not intervene at all when these robots play.

This is the Teen Final from last year between Iran and Germany:

The headbands and goalie pads are just killing us with their awesomeness.

The child-size version is also pretty cool. This specific video was chosen because of the fantastical background music. Spoiler alert: the US beat Iran. It was like the miracle on ice. Except not.

The adult sized competition, while probably the most famous, is also the one that is the least likely to produce good video, because tall humanoid robots aren’t quite as stable as we’d like. And there are only two on the field. But, we bring you this excerpt from the 2014 championship anyways, because watching robots almost fall over is good teevee. And it is set to amazing electronica. Inexplicably.

4. The Mid-Size League:

This is for ‘bots larger than the tiny league, but not actual people shaped robots. Since this is self-explanatory, let me belabor the point with this awesome qualification video from TechUnited’s team!

5. The Standard League:

In the standard league all the robots have the same hardware. This lets the humans involved focus on the software. The robots operate fully autonomously – that’s right, they play soccer without the help of humans or external computers. The current platform is NAO (by Aldebaran Robotics). You may know these ‘bots because they can also dance Gangnam style.

Little identical robots playing soccer is pretty awesome. Check them out in this video of last year’s grand final, when The University of New South Wales won the whole damn thing. As an alumni of this illustrious institution, I have to just add…squee!

If you’d prefer to learn about standard robots in a video again set inexplicably, and awesomely, to electronica, this video will fulfill your urge.

This year’s competition will be held between the 19th and 22nd of July, but don’t forget to check back here at your Bitter Empire for profiles of the contestants and more robot fun – because let’s face it, we’re a little obsessed with robots.

Featured image courtesy of the SPQR team at Sapienza University of Rome


  1. Also, yes, I know “real” fans call it ‘football’ but I grew up in Australia, I live in the US and frankly, I don’t watch any sportsball, so quit yer bitchin’ or tell it to someone who knows the difference between a point and a goal

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