Tech United wants to win RoboCup MSL with new wheel system

Robots that pass out coffee independently, notice a source of danger, or play a game of soccer no longer amaze us. But every year they get better and more interesting. This summer, there will be an opportunity to learn all about the latest developments in autonomous robots. Student team Tech United is helping to organize the 2024 RoboCup and to line up the best possible robot soccer team for the event.

photo Tech United

RoboCup is organized in a different location each year. This time, the honor has befallen Eindhoven University of Technology, which already played host to the event in 2013. The upcoming edition will have seventeen divisions across five categories: soccer, search and rescue, household assistance, junior, and industrial.

Aneesh Deogan leads the team that will be competing in the RoboCup Soccer Middle Size League (MSL). “We’re very confident we’ll be able to defend our world champion title. We have even better soccer players than the ones we fielded in Bordeaux last year,” says the Englishman who’s doing a PhD at ME robotics.

Alongside the main competition, there are technical and scientific challenges. At the 2023 RoboCup MSL, the focus was on dribbling. The robots aren’t allowed to hang on to the ball for more than three meters. Back then, Tech United came in second with its ‘human dribble’ solution. This involves the robot passing the ball to itself, much the same way a soccer player does. The scientific challenge was a prelude to a paper by a PhD candidate at TU/e about robots anticipating each other’s actions. All of this year’s possibilities will be on display to the general public at a soccer tournament at Indoor-Sportcentrum Eindhoven (Genneper Parken).

Three innovations

This year, in addition to excellent dribbling, Tech United is focusing on fluid motion and better acceleration and deceleration of the robot soccer players. “We have new cameras. The OmniVision camera was working together with the Kinect camera off the Xbox, but that’s outdated and has been replaced. We intend for our new camera to recognize people in 2025. We’ll start doing AI training for this,” says Deogan. All robot soccer teams are allowed to have one human player.

Deogan isn’t afraid of their opponent Falcons, which is sponsored by ASML. “One thing Falcons worked on is a new perception system using four cameras. Tech United worked on the technology for controlling the movement mechanisms. We’re now implementing a setpoint generator. This allows our robots to plan routes to get from point A to point B on the field as quickly as possible, keeping in mind their maximum speed and acceleration.”

A third innovation (next to the AI camera and the setpoint generator) is the ‘swerve drive platform’ that Tech United developed for the technical challenge of 2022. The platform consists of three wheels that have two engines each, allowing them to both roll and rotate around their vertical axis. Deogan: “This means the movements are less choppy, as well as quicker and more efficient. It does make it a lot harder to properly coordinate the wheels and the program is more complicated as well. But it does enable us to use the full power of the engines in the direction the robot is going.”

Water from China

Tech United hopes its most formidable opponent, team Water from China, will come to Eindhoven again this year. “In 2013 they beat us in the final. We’d love a rematch. We did defeat them in Sydney in 2019, but since then we haven’t seen them at RoboCup due to COVID, even though they did make it through the qualifiers. Eleven teams have qualified this time around, including Water. We hope they’ll be there this year.”


RoboCup was created to showcase the world of robotics to the public. For the soccer league, the ultimate goal is to defeat the human world soccer champions in 2050. Deogan says it’s clear this won’t be possible using wheels, even if they’re on a perfect platform. “That only works on smooth surfaces, which means it’s suited for care robots in hospitals or homes. We’re dealing with grass. This is why we want to start working on legs. We purchased two of MIT’s Mini Cheetahs. Those look like Spot, the famous robot dog we already use, but features open-source development possibilities that Spot doesn’t have. In the years ahead, we intend to teach them to kick a ball and block it before it crosses the goal line.”


RoboCup 2024 will take place at the Indoor-Sportcentrum and at Fontys Sports College from July 17 thru 21. The organizers will need many volunteers in construction, audience hospitality and media relations from July 15 onwards. Click here to sign up.

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