Robot footballers will soon be good enough to win the human World Cup, boffins claim.
Scientists have created artificial intelligence players that can make their own decisions regarding whether they should pass or shoot in kickabouts.
They are already competing in robot leagues around the world and in a RoboCup.
Experts believe robots will soon be just as skilled as human players because of their competitive nature in the AI game.
They are more likely to be mentally stronger and better able to perform under extreme pressure.
Boffins predict that within 30 years, a robot team will be the greatest in the world.
The RoboCup founders’ aim is to create a ‘team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players’ that will win in a match ‘complying with the official rules of FIFA’ against the ‘winner of the most recent World Cup’ by the middle of the Century.
Peter Stone, RoboCup president and computer science professor at the University of Texas in the US, said: “It’s certainly plausible.”
“I wouldn’t bet too much on it but I wouldn’t bet too much against it either.”
“Thirty years is a long time technologically speaking.”
“A lot can happen in that kind of time span.”
Peter said one of the challenges faced by scientists was “building a robot that can run as quickly and easily as a person, can bend it like Beckham or kick the ball and change direction.”
“I wouldn’t have imagined where we’re at now 20 years ago but there’s still a long way to go,” he added.
AI teams from around the world participate in the RoboCup which has a number of different categories.
In the Standard Platform League teams all use the same robot so the focus is on AI software development.
While in the Humanoid League teams bosses design and build their own robots so they have to develop both software and physical robotics.
Former RoboCup winner Raffaello D’Andrea (corr) used the skills he honed working on his team to found Kiva Systems which was bought by Amazon for £566million.
Professor Stone said: “The technology that he developed for RoboCup, of the robots moving around and kicking the ball, is exactly the technology that formed the impetus for Amazon Robotics.”
“Bringing together some of the world’s experts and most creative technologists to work towards an endeavour they’re passionate about has a real good track record of leading to great other things that have impact.”
Post-graduate computer science student Mahtab Sarvmaili, a member of team Cyrus from Canada’s Dalhousie University which won RoboCup’s Software League, said was ‘quite possible’ robotic sports will become a lucrative global hit.
She said that it would be as profitable via the advertisements as live sports games.