MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- On Monday, June 16th, Team USA took the field for their first game of the World Cup. In a little over a month, another American team, this one from Marquette University, will do a similar thing in Brazil -- but the players won't be Americans. In fact, they won't even be human!
A continent away from the fanfare of the World Cup in Brazil, a future soccer player is learning the sport, among other things, at Marquette University.
"Sonny," an autonomous humanoid robot is the creation of a team of students in the College of Engineering at Marquette.
"We all have a little connection to them. We even give them names," Adam Stroud said.
They also give them the chance to play.
Team Leader Adam Stroud works to teach Sonny different skills related to the game of soccer.
"The robot is placed out on the field and it needs to know a few things. It needs to know where it is in the field and that involves using computer vision to see where the goal is, to see where the ball is and see where the other robots are. Then it also needs to know the state of itself. Like it needs to know where it's body parts are. It needs to know how to walk," Stroud said.
Sonny and another yet to be named robot were made in the Humanoid Engineering and Intelligent Robotics Lab -- or HEIR Lab.
The students draw a 3D model on the computer, and then send the parts to a 3D printer where they are formed in six to eight hours.
"One of the things that I like to get across to my students is there's no limits to what we can do with our creative minds," Dr. Andrew Williams said.
Dr. Williams is the director of the HEIR Lab. He's also a professor and chair in the College of Engineering.
"It's been a great experience to see that everyone brings their talents, their perspectives to the table and everyone's valued and important in making this reality," Dr. Williams said.
In July, following the World Cup Tournament, Sonny and the other robots will be taken to Brazil to compete in their own soccer tournament called Robocup.
"Researchers from around the world all knew the language of soccer and they knew you wouldn't have to explain the rules," Dr. Williams said.
"We're trying to get robots to play soccer autonomously with other robots," Stroud said.
Teams consisting of two robots will compete against other teams from around the world with the ultimate goal of winning the Robocup.
"Our goal is just to get a goal. And then from there maybe we'll improve a little bit as the games go on," Stroud said.
"I think regardless of what we do, if we're able to go out there and compete that will be a win we bring back to Marquette," Dr. Williams said.
"Hopefully we'll have some pretty cool behavior by the time we're there," Stroud said.
While the next goal is Robocup, there are many more this team is hoping to score in the future.
"One of our goals is to be able to supply low cost robots, eventually to have a robot in every home helping kids with their health and nutrition, exercise as well as what they're reading," Dr. Williams said.
Marquette's team is the only American team that qualified in the teen size division of Robocup.
The event has been going on since 1997 with the intention of having a team made of robots compete against the World Cup champions by 2050.
CLICK HERE to learn more about Marquette University's HEIR Lab.