They may not be the next David Beckham or Mia Hamm, but these little robot soccer players are sure fun to watch. Last week 49 senior teams and 116 junior teams came together to compete in the regional Robocup Soccer Championships held in Hannover, Germany.

Robocup is a non-profit international initiative whose goal is to encourage artificial intelligence and robotics research. The first official games were held in Nagayo, Japan in 1997. Since then it has become wildly popular, with countries holding regional Robocup competitions, leading up to the annual Robocup World Championship and Conference in July. This year, the championships will be held in Suzhou, China.

The junior teams comprise of high school students and the senior team largely of University students. Each team also has many categories they can compete in, such as the size of robots, the number of wheels on each robot etc. In the junior category there are also other competitions such as RoboDance and RoboRescue, but Soccer is the most popular of all.

Each team has to build its own robot(s) from scratch. This is no easy task. For a robot to be able to play soccer, it must have a lot of capabilities built in, including the art of collaboration and the ability to make quick decisions. However, the difficulties do not seem to prevent kids and adults from trying to build the smartest and the most agile soccer playing robots with names like Robo-Rooney and Beta-Beckham. Additionally, unlike a human soccer team which needs 11 players on the field, RoboSoccer needs only two robots, one player and one goalkeeper, making it a little easier to build a team.

While this is all fun, Robocup organizers have even bigger aspirations. They believe that by 2050, the soccer playing robots will be good enough to beat the best human soccer team in the world! - Now that will be a game to watch!

To read more about Robocup go to:

Enjoy the video of the 2007 German Robocup finals.,USA Today, Google News