Taking a robot to Mars: it all starts in LAB42
The robotics lab is located on the ground floor of Lab42. This is where Bachelor's and Master's students gain experimental skills. As a result, they learn that an algorithm that works in theory can turn out very differently in practice. ‘Companies are desperate for graduates with these skills.’
Practical applications of AI
Robotics is part of the Artificial Intelligence degree programme. ‘Artificial Intelligence has many different aspects and applications. It only becomes robotics when you give these applications a body, as in the case of our footballing robots.’ But robotics is a smaller component of the Artificial Intelligence programme than most people think. ‘Only 3 of the 18 subjects in the curriculum are about this.’
Dutch Nao Team
The football-playing robots are part of the Dutch Nao Team, which consists of Bachelor's and Master's students from the Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science programmes. By programming the robots in advance, the students can get them to play football independently without someone directing their actions. The team enter their robots in competitions all over the world.
Better than the best football team
The students aren’t just getting the robots to play football for fun. ‘A well-known experiment within AI is the Turing test. This allows you to find out if a system is genuinely intelligent.’ Until 1997, chess was one of the tests. But in that year, the former world chess champion Gary Gasparov was defeated by supercomputer IBM Deep Blue. ‘Then people started thinking, “What's harder than chess?” And they came up with football. As a result, the latest AI goal is for robots to play football better than the best team in the world in 2050.’