The press release put out by event sponsor Louis Vuitton describes RoboCup as "an international research and educational initiative for artificial intelligence and robotics with a focus on soccer-playing robots." About 300 teams from countries, including Bulgaria, Iran, Slovakia and Thailand, travel here to compete and share their love of robots, making it the largest annual gathering of robotics experts. But I still can't figure out why Louis Vuitton would sponsor this event. My understanding is that the robots themselves play in the nude and--as to the engineers and scientists that create them--something tells me they are not in the market for couture suits and man-purses. Better try Comic-Con.
But this is a time to put stereotypes aside. After all, these robots are playing soccer. I check into my hotel, which looked on GoogleMaps like it was close to the campus. The receptionist tells me it is at least a mile. When I ask if I can walk there, she says, "You can at least walk part of the way." I decide to take my chances. Five not very long blocks later I arrive on campus. I am already drenched in sweat.
The main events are being held in the most unbelievably enormous gymnasium I have ever seen. At first, I had a hard time deciding if I had come to right place. I guess I'm accustomed to design conferences, which, if nothing else, tend to do good signage:
As it turns out, the day's event--the finals for the Junior League--is already over. The teams are packing up. The German team is giving the Dutch team a hard time about wooden shoes.
This gives me a chance to check out the course for the search and rescue event, one of the sideline attractions. Amid a jumble of blocks a man's voice cries out. "Hey! I'm trapped. Help me. It's dark down here."
From another corner comes the sound of crying baby.
I turn my back on the scene. The important thing is that I've found a flyer for tonight's party, which I see is being hosted by China.
TO BE CONTINUED...