Soccer Under Glass: Competition Kicks it Microscope-style
Nano-robots aim for the goal on the world’s smallest ‘soccer’ pitch
|Soccer-playing nano robot Courtesy of U.S. Naval Academy|
While the US Men’s Soccer team was preparing for a Confederations Cup finals match against heavily favored Brazil, a few teams with “athletes” the size of dust mites prepared to battle it out on a soccer “field” no bigger than a grain of rice. Kicking off on June 29 in Graz, Austria, RoboCup2009 hosted the world’s tiniest soccer demonstration for the third year. Operated via remote control, the “athletes” are able to move around the field due to changing magnetic fields and other transmitted electrical signals.
With each nanobot measuring around 200-300 nanometers in length, the match was viewed through a microscope. The Nanogram demonstration was part of this year’s RoboCup, the annual robotic competition that aims to promote the advancements of robotic technology and artificial intelligence through robot soccer. RoboCup2009 is organized into multiple leagues of competition based on the type and size of the competitors.
Small Size, Big Benefits
Going nano pays dividends. Reducing transistors to nanometer sizes (a billionth of a meter) allows more of them to be packed into microchips. Reducing light pulses to nanoseconds (billionths of seconds) allows more information to be sent down optical fibers. The engineered smallness of the nano-world can also extend to fun things like soccer.
The event was played on a microchip in an enclosure about the size of a rice grain. The demonstration consisted of three events: a 2-millimeter dash, a slalom-like course in which the bots must maneuver around several tiny posts, and a scoring game in which the bots must shoot tiny balls — made from silicon about the size of a human blood cell — into a goal.
|A microchip containing 16 soccer fields, each about 2.5 millimeters wide. Courtesy NIST|
Competitors hailed from universities around the globe, and teams were from The ETH Technology institute in Zurich, Switzerland; The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; the University of Waterloo in Ontario; and Sherbrook University in Quebec.
National Institute of Standards and Technology engineer Craig McGray said that the goal of the Nanogram demonstration is to foster an appreciation of nano-technology and to demonstrate how precise and skillful tasks can be accomplished at the nano level.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland helped organize the event along with the international RoboCup Federation.