Having mastered soccer, robots try football

One of the nice things about modern robotic competition is that once the competitors get too skilled at a given sport -- soccer, for instance -- you can simply toss a differently-shaped ball onto the field, and even the greatest RoboRonaldo is instantly knocked down a notch or two. Such is the case with Japan's Robot American Football Tournament, where the soccer ball of RoboCup-style tourneys has been replaced with a classic US pigskin (made out of rubber to liven things up), although NFL-type, turn-based play is eschewed for what usually degrades into a frenzied-but-exciting demolition derby. Teams of four bots each are controlled remotely by high school students during the six-minute games, where the goal is to score more "touchdowns" than one's opponents by shoveling the ball into the end zone. While this concept certainly makes for an entertaining spectacle, we'd like to see organizers from the All Japan Robot Sumo Tournament Office tweak the rules just a bit more, because instead of standing on the sidelines, the student operators should be strapped into huge, hydraulically-powered mecha and forced to use flame-throwers and nail-guns on one another if they want to emerge victorious on the playing field.