Physical Dramaturgy: Ein (neuer) Trend?

Dramaturgie im zeitgenössischen Tanz ist ? positiv gemeint ? ein heißes Eisen. Idealerweise sind Dramaturginnen und Dramaturgen während der Erarbeitung eines Stücks die besten Freunde der Choreografen. more more



No feel for the ball

Manfred Weise reports from RoboCup, the humanoid football world championships

Competition at the tenth annual RoboCup robot football championships in Bremen came to an end over the weekend. Eleven of the 33 events were won by Germany. In second place was China with nine gold medals. Japan came third with six medals, while Iran came fourth with five.

The tenth RoboCup, the championship of football-playing robots taking place this year in Bremen, didn't start according to plan: rather than staying put and waiting for Jörg Kastendiek, Bremen's senator for industry and ports, to kick things off, the goalie – a machine – raced across the field, rammed into a table and spilled water over one of the computer scientists. That didn't stop those present from holding fast to their conviction. The statutes of the Robot World Cup Federation read: "By the year 2050, develop a team of fully autonomous humanoid robots that can win against the human world football champion team." Outside onlookers at the competitions taking place this week in Bremen might find that a daring prognosis.

The Humanoid League. Images courtesy of Messe Bremen and Robocup Federation

The robots of the Humanoid League, smaller than little-league players, wouldn't have the ghost of a chance against the oldest veterans. As the robots can't play matches, the RoboCup programme features competitions like penalty kicks and dribbling around obstacles. A robot can't just run onto the field and start kicking the ball around. Before it starts it's got to be properly adjusted: where am I? Where's the ball? Where's my opponent?

Players in the Humanoid League recognise the ball, the goals and their fellow players by their colours, so their image processing has to be finely attuned to the light. For this reason every RoboCup entry form gives an exact description of the lighting conditions in the hall, and the robots are not permitted to wear the same colour as the playing field, ball or goal. When spectators on the perimeter of the field wear ball-coloured T-shirts, it can happen that robots take them for the ball.

Sony Aibo dogs from the Four-legged League. Courtesy Messe Bremen

Martin Riedmiller, professor and member of the Neuroinformatics Group at the University of Osnabruck, finds it hardly imaginable "that robots will be able to beat human teams by 2050." But he has seen tremendous progress in recent years. As examples he points to the huge accuracy with which robots can pinpoint their locations in changing light conditions, their robustness and the precision of their attacking and defensive manoeuvres.

Still in its infancy, however, is team playing – which seems to require a higher degree of intelligence. That also goes for football intelligence (good players can anticipate how the game will develop), goal instinct (Gerd Müller: "If you start thinking in front of the goal, it's too late") and football emotions. But Riedmiller seems convinced that the problems of "intelligent behaviour" and anticipating game situations can be solved. "Already robots can behave reactively, without thinking, based on experiences," he says. "The goal is to have robots learn the correlation between certain actions and success or failure." Plus, there's still "a bit of time before 2050."

Humanoid players. Courtesy Robocup Federation

He sees more problems on the hardware side, with developing things like soft artificial muscles, quick-turning joints, robustness and energy supply. Robots need soft surfaces and artificial muscles to play against humans – instead of motors, gears and cables. And with the batteries and accumulators now available, robot footballers could play at most a couple of minutes – and not the regulation 90. For professor Rolf Pfeifer, head of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Zurich University, solving the "motor-sensory question" in robot football has to take the forefront. Not the least, he says, because higher cognitive abilities and emotions are closely connected to bodily functions. But here research is still in its infancy. For Pfeifer there's little sense "interpreting cognitive aspects into the systems from above."

Humanoid line-up. Courtesy Robocup Federation

But the most difficult long-term task for constructors of humanoid footballers has to be heading the ball, as headers require an extremely complex combination of power and mobility, quick reactions, intuitive understanding of ball trajectories, experience and timing. And after all, one in five goals is a header. To sum up: in 45 years' time robots will be everywhere, but presumably the football stadium will be the last place where they still won't have a chance against humans.


The article was originally published in German in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on June 16, 2006.

Manfred Weise works as freelance journalist for various IT newspapers, as well as the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. He is author of "Die Kurzmeldung. Theoretische Grundlagen und praktische Tipps" (The news flash: theoretical basics and practical tips), 2005.

Translation: jab.

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles. - let's talk european.

More articles

From pasta to pyrotechnics

Monday 25 July, 2011

We should be playing more and working less, according to philosopher and author Byung-Chul Han. He argues from the standpoint of Asian thinking yet is firmly rooted in the Western tradition. Ronald Düker visits Byung-Chul Han at the University of Arts and Design in Karlsruhe to find out how to make our minds more supple.
read more

The Freudian romance

Thursday 9 June 2011

TeaserPicSelf-analysis and great romantic literature: Sigmund Freud was separated from his bride Martha Bernays for four years. Almost entirely kept under lock and key until the early 2000s, the first volume of their correspondence, the approximately 1,500 letters of the so-called "bridal letters" has now just been published for the first time. The first of five planned volumes is discussed by Jean Bollack.
read more

The barb of variety

Tuesday 25 May, 2011

Josef H. Reichholf's large-scale study on the origin of beauty that has just been published in German describes evolution as a kaleidoscope of possibilities and productive wastefulness that relativises all mechanics of necessity. The more complex organisms become, the more they liberate themselves from external living conditions and allow the attraction of beauty to play out its anarchic game. By Horst Bredekamp. Image courtesy Jörg Hempel.
read more

Save Benjamin from his fans!

Monday 11 October, 2010

TeaserPicWalter Benjamin took his life seventy years ago. Today the cult of Benjamin has turned him into kitsch and his almost entirely false theories into intellectual blancmange. Author Stephan Wackwitz picks apart the legend of a saint whose work should be read as Romantic literature.

read more

Chalk and the abyss

Wednesday May 19, 2010

As rector of the Albert Ludwig University in the winter of 1933/34, Martin Heidegger gave a seminar which was said to contain decisive evidence of the total identification of his teachings with the principles of Hitlerism. Now, thanks to his son Hermann Heidegger, the secret transcripts of this seminar "On the Essence and Concepts of Nature, History and the State" have been published for the first time. By Alexander Kissler
read more

The attack of the 13th fairy

Wednesday 9 February, 2010

Filmmaker and writer Alexander Kluge is no optimist, but he knows ways out of the present. Freitag magazine engages him in a conversation about the World Wide Web, dragonflies, the belief in better human beings and why he likes "gardener" as a job description.
read more

The origin of the world

Thursday 18 June, 2009

TeaserPicMithu M. Sanyal, a self-proclaimed "provocative feminist", has written a cultural history of the vulva. Richly illustrated and packed with knowledgeable synopses, it has directed the media spotlight into a symbolic and semantic void. By Ulrike Baureithel
read more

Good readers are cannibals

Monday 15 December, 2008

TeaserPicKurt Flasch's book "Kampfplätze der Philosophie" strides across the battlefields of philosophy from Augustine to Voltaire. After a weekend spent scribbling furiously in its margins, Arno Widmann was enlightened, exhilarated and hungry for more.
read more

Mohammed on the "straight path"

Tuesday 8 April, 2008

Did the Prophet Mohammed only become a power-conscious religious politician in Medina, where he emigrated from Mecca in 622? Author of a new Mohammed biography, Tilman Nagel has found much to indicate the absence of any genuine break in the evolution of this religious founder.

read more

A new cosmopolitanism is in the air

Wednesday 21 November, 2007

The global power of capital has no need for military force. And it is nigh on boundless. Sociologist Ulrich Beck presents seven theses for a better world.
read more

Banished to the banlieues

Wednesday 14 November, 2007

The Parisian social sciences institutes are being turfed out of their ancestral homes in the city's most desirable arrondissements and relocated to Aubervilliers. A bitter pill, but also a chance to turn theory into practice. By Wolf Lepenies
read more

Children of the sun

Wednesday 12 September, 2007

All light-generating substances, as well as the oxygen they consume, stem ultimately from trapped solar energy. The pulsing points of light in the depths of our oceans are distant offspring of the sunlight. Biochemist Gottfried Schatz follows light across time and space, from the Big Bang to the ocean floor.

read more

"The time for philosophising is over"

Monday 20 August, 2007

Ernst Tugendhat, philosopher and critic of German pseudo-profundity, talks to Ulrike Herrmann about the fear of death, Heidegger, anti-Semitism and unfounded speculations in brain research.

read more

Dumber in English

Thursday July 12, 2007

Is German academic language dying in the face of the dominant Anglo-Saxon? Well, revive it! Biophysicist and author Stefan Klein doesn't think German scholars should try to impress the world with mediocre English. He makes a case for the mother tongue, proposing incentives such as prizes for the best scientific texts. After all, everyone craves rewards.

read more

Philosopher, poet and friend

Tuesday 12 June, 2007

The American thinker Richard Rorty passed away on Friday at his home in California. German philosopher Jürgen Habermas tells what makes Rorty unique among intellectuals, and what binds Rorty, orchids, and justice on earth.

read more