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C3PO Shoots... and Scores!

8:45 AM -- Anyone still smarting after America's ignominious first-round exit from the World Cup can cheer up, because another U.S. team has returned from Germany as world champion.

Yes, that's right. Carnegie Mellon University's CMDragons'06 claimed the "small robot" league title at this year's RoboCup, a soccer-oriented showcase of the world's top robot technologies, which ended in Bremen last week. The team's five robots, cube-shaped machines with 7-inch sides, outscored opponents by an impressive 53 goals to 3 during six games played at the tournament.

The Carnegie Mellon team attributed its success to the robots' speed and a special software algorithm for attacking and defending. After witnessing the U.S. soccer team's turgid performance against the Czech Republic and their exit at the hands of Ghana last week, I am starting to wonder whether coach Bruce Arena should have named some (if not all) of the Carnegie Mellon machines to his World Cup squad.

Researchers from the university also demonstrated two small humanoid robots, named Ami and Sango, which provided commentary during some of the RoboCup matches. Surely, this could be no worse than the ESPN analysis I have had to endure for the last couple of weeks.

The small robot league, however, is just one of many leagues in the RoboCup, which includes competitions for "four-legged" robots (a bit like your own pooch, but without the pooper-scooper) and my personal favorite, the "humanoid" league. This year's humanoid champs were Japan's TeamOsaka Kid Size, which beat out Germany's NimBro Kid Size and (somewhat bizarrely) another Japanese outfit, TeamOsaka Teen Size, to win top honours.

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