Seattle recently played host to a series of robotics competitions as part of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence. The conference draws about 2600 researchers from around the world, and is the premier gathering of the AI elite. It occurs every four years and, when in North America, meets jointly with the American Association for Artificial Intelligence.

Many of the robotic events are part of the annual RoboCup-2001 competition. It

involves teams of robots about the size of a small vacuum cleaner that play soccer without direct human interaction. The competition’s purpose is to stimulate interest for and research into AI and robotics.

Not all of the competitions are fun and games. In Robot Rescue, the robots must successfully negotiate through three courses designed to simulate the hazards you might find in a collapsed building after an earthquake. The robots are charged with locating survivors and reporting back to human rescuers about their locations, as well as the obstacles to their rescue.