The Three Laws of Robotics:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

– Isaac Asimov

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Isaac Asimov would have loved to be in Atlanta next summer for a different kind of an Olympics event.

Researchers and students from around the world will gather at Georgia Tech for the “RoboCup 2007” competition. Representatives from more than 20 countries will participate in an attempt to advance the dream that people such as the late Asimov long envisioned – humanoid robots.

The goal of the RoboCup event is to develop humanoid robots that can beat the human World Cup soccer champions by the year 2050.

Hey, nothing in Issac’s “laws” saying Team Robot couldn’t whip up on Team USA (or, more likely, Team Brazil or Team Italy).

Imagine what a reprise of the Olympiad hosted in Atlanta in 1996 if a future event matches the best humans can develop naturally vs. the best humans can create artificially.

Welcome to the coming world of “I, Robot” – but probably not staring Will Smith, who would be quite, quite old by then, and perhaps without any robot-on-man killing (or vice versa).

Would soccer announcers get as excited and scream “Goalllllllllllllllll!” if Robot No. 10, nicknamed Pele, scored for Robot Nation against Brazil?

(Hey, here’s a thought – maybe the autonomous vehicle research technology being developed by North Carolina State University and the Insight Racing Team can be used to chauffer the Team Robot to the stadium.)

The RoboCup competition was launched in 1998, with previous events hosted in Paris, Seattle, Lisbon, Osaka and Bremen, Germany. The Atlanta event will be the first one hosted entirely on a college campus.

Georgia Tech has placed considerable emphasis on robotics development, so the university is a natural to be the host.

Tucker Balch, an associate professor at Tech’s College of Computing, will act as chair for the competition.

“Over the past few years, Georgia Tech has emerged as a global leader in robotics research and innovation, based upon its partnerships with industry leaders and our strengths in interactive and intelligent computing,” Balch said in a statement this week. “By hosting the 11th annual RoboCup competition, Georgia Tech will have a great opportunity to showcase the technology leadership of the Institute and the City of Atlanta to researchers and scientists worldwide.”

More than 20 countries are expected to participate with an estimated 350 teams. Soccer games as well as research-and-rescue missions will be the testing areas for use of artificial intelligence and robotics. Students from middle schools to colleges as well as faculty will participate.

By the way, the MEMs will be coming too.

The competition also will feature a “Nanogram League” competition between microscopic sized robots based on microelectromechanical systems (MEMs).
Now that will be interesting to watch on big screens. (MEMs are too small to be seen other than a microscope.) Imagine, minuscule ‘bots playing sports. Talk about a Fantasy Soccer League. Should be fun.