By Anusha Aijaz
Dr. Saleha Raza completed her Ph.D. from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) in Karachi. She was an enthusiastic member of the Artificial Intelligence Lab in IBA. Currently she is the assistant professor of Computer Science at Habib University.
During the lecture of School of Science and Engineering, she shared the story of Karachi Koalas, a team of simulated robots, which was programmed by her team to play soccer. Karachi Koalas is a robot soccer team that was established in fall 2010, under the supervision of Dr. Sajjad Haider (IBA), as a joint venture between University of Technology, Sydney and IBA, Karachi.
Dr. Saleha initiated the talk by explaining that RoboCup is an international robotic world cup that aims to promote education and research in the areas of artificial intelligence, robotics and other related fields. The competition consists of different categories and the most popular among them is RoboCup Soccer in which teams of robots play soccer. Karachi Koalas qualified for RoboCup Soccer after just a few months of its formation and participated in Robocup Soccer Simulation 3D league.
Dr. Saleha was the technical lead of Karachi Koalas and, in this capacity, she saw the team progress from the top 16 teams (in RoboCup 2011 – Turkey) to the top 10 (in RoboCup 2012 – Mexico) and, finally, to the top five (RoboCup 2013 – Netherlands).
She discussed that soccer was chosen because it offers a sufficiently complex environment which is not only rapid and dynamic, but also exposes many challenging research areas such as multi-agent collaboration, Machine vision, humanoid locomotion, multi-fusion systems.
During the discussion she also explained the technical inspections that were done during the creation of the simulated robot team. It was essential to ensure that these robots could compete successfully in a competition dominated by big names such as MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Texas Austin, Harvard, Oxford, and Georgia Tech.
The three main technical considerations of soccer robots were; Locomotion, which deals with making the robot walk, dribble, kick, dive etc.; Localization, which involves figuring out the positions of robots in the soccer field; and Strategy Building, which determines the coordination of robots among team members and decision making on the basis of the dynamics of the ongoing soccer game.
The team had a fantastic run at RoboCup 2013, which ended in the Quarter Finals round with Karachi Koalas finished 5th in the tournament. According to the team’s website, Karachi Koalas had exciting matches against top teams like UT Austin, FCPortugal and SEURedSun (which both ended up in the semi-finals). The team had also been awarded the title of ‘Most Improved Team’ and given the ‘Best Presentation Award’ in a regional competition in Iran in 2012.
She concluded her talk by saying “it’s not about winning, it’s more about participating in such competitions and addressing the challenges that encounter”.