The first International Robot Games, or ROBOlympics, organized by the Robotics Society of America, will take place on March 20th and 21st, 2004 in San Francisco, California. There will be competition for combat and non-combat robots, a World Cup Soccer, and even a robo-triathlon. More than 400 robots are registered for this robotics competition. Nature tells us the story in "Robolympics contestants shoot for gold."
Like the human version, the Robolympics will put its contestants through a variety of gruelling events, from robot sumo to robot soccer. There is even a robo-triathlon, in which automatons scramble to be first on legs, on wheels and across water.
Artificial intelligence researchers and robotics buffs already have regular competitions, but these often feature just one sport. The Robolympics will be the first mega-competition for those in the game, explains David Calkins, games founder and president of the Robotics Society of America.
And the winners will be rewarded -- with cash.
The Robolympics has attracted 414 registered robots and nearly 600 human guardians from 11 different countries across Europe, Asia and North America. Some of the most popular events are those that offer a big prize: contestants in the combat category could scoop up to US$3,400 for annihilating rival machines.
The full list of events, including the prizes, is available here. As the site says, "11 Countries + 34 Events + 173 Teams + 414 Robots + 547 Engineers = 1 Amazing Weekend!"
The ROBOlympics website features two photo galleries, one for combat robots and another one for non-combat robots. Here is a very nice photo of two robots, the larger one either fixing or rocking the smaller one (Credit: ROBOlympics).
Besides having fun and winning prizes, there are more serious purposes for organizing such a competition.
Robotics researchers say that such competitions fuel the development of other robots, such as search and rescue machines that pick through earthquake rubble for survivors. One event called Ribbon Climber, in which robots race up a carbon-fibre ribbon, was designed to inspire 'space elevator' technology that might one day lift satellites into orbit.
[And] besides fuelling ingenuity, Calkins hopes that the Robolympics will raise the general public's awareness of robotics. The contest is set to become an annual event, so anyone who misses San Francisco will not have to wait until 2008 for tickets: "Technology changes so fast that once every four years is not enough," says Calkins.
For your information, Robolympics is not sold out. So if you are near San Francisco, it's still time to buy tickets. They cost $15 to $25. Entrance is free for children under 7.
Source: Helen Pearson, Nature, March 18, 2004; ROBOlympics website