America and Iran Settle Their Differences on the Robotic Soccer Field

If only all geopolitical conflicts could be handled by droids kicking soccer balls at each other.

image via (cc) flickr user eneas

If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ve probably heard a little something about the recent nuclear agreement between the United States and Iran—an agreement critics fear will clear a path for Iranian atomic weapons, and which advocates argue is a necessary diplomatic step to help direct both nations away from a violent confrontation. But while pundits and politicians around the world have spent the last several days debating the merits of the nuclear diplomacy, Iranian and U.S. representatives were busy duking it out in a very different type of arena: The robotic soccer field.

The RoboCup was founded in 1997 as a global venue for playful robotic competition, but with a serious undercurrent of highly advanced A.I. and mechanical experimentation. Since then it has blossomed into a major event, featuring multiple leagues and tracks for different types and sizes of robotic athletes, all working toward the stated goal that: “By the middle of the 21st century, a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players shall win a soccer game, complying with the official rules of FIFA, against the winner of the most recent World Cup.”

It is that goal of a cooperative robotic contest which brought together a reported 175 teams from nearly 50 countries, all vying for the top prize at this year’s competition, held in the Chinese city of Hefei on July 17th to the 23rd.

Of all the different types of mechanical soccer taking place at the RoboCup, though, it is the “adult-size” league, featuring robots required to stand at least four feet tall, that is the competition’s crowning event. These are the machines which might someday compete against a flesh and blood crew of World Cup winners. Accordingly, the stakes here are high, not only for the sake of team bragging rights, but because a victory could very well advance the field of robotics as a whole.

This year’s adult-size finals boiled down to the U.S. and Iranian teams, each represented by a single bot. Iran’s robot, created by the Baset Pazhuh Tehran firm and THORwin, as well as the American bot, designed by a team from the University of Pennsylvania, were each required to dribble a soccer ball past a series of stationary obstacles, before taking their shot on goal, all autonomously, without any mid-field programming from operators on the sidelines.

In the end it was the Americans who took home the gold, winning the championship shootout 5-4, and setting the stage for a U.S.-Iranian rivalry at future RoboCups to come. And while any mention of friction between Americans and Iranians is likely to call to mind shades of the ongoing atomic tensions between both nations, this robo-soccer rivalry is, in actuality, geopolitics in its best incarnation: Two countries competing against each other, not for national supremacy, but to achieve a shared technological goal that could someday serve the betterment of us all.

[via digital journal, the guardian]

via Honor Africans / Twitter

The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

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"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

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