First ever humanoid Robot vs Human competition at RoboCup2003?

I visited RoboCup 2003 in Padua, Italy today, and my son Cosimo was chosen from the public as goalkeeper, to defend against Hits Dream’s penalty kicks. Hits Dream is a fully autonomous humanoid robot built by the Honda International Technical School‘s team led by Shuji Imura. (I am not sure, if actually the name of the robot is Firstep…)

RoboCup is an international research and educational initiative, in the spirit of other fun, and stimulating technological challenges of the past, the ones won by the Write brothers, or Lindbergh: its aim is to build a team of robots that can beat the human world champion soccer team, by the year 2050.

Way to go, naturally… It was humanly heartening to see how easily Cosimo defended his goal against the robot’s kicks. Actually I told him that he should let at least one goal in, but he couldn’t relent, and at the end the referee awarded a goal to the robot because my son moved out of his line of defense, and the rules apparently didn’t allow for this.

I took a lot of photos, and I sure wasn’t alone!

The event was commented for the public by Thomas Christaller, the head of the Fraunhofer Institut for Autonomous Intelligent Systems, one of the organisers of RoboCup 2003. I was stunned when Christaller confirmed that probably this was the first ever public competition between a robot, and a human!