Mireille Silcoff reports from the other World Cup – the one in Montreal where 5,000 robots from 35 countries compete for glory

If you’d like to know how things are going in the world of robotics, you would do well to attend RoboCup — the world cup of robot football — and not spend too long looking at the field.

Robots are terrible soccer players. They can’t run, they can’t jump, they sometimes wander off the pitch in a stupor, and after kicking the ball they often fall over like toddlers hitting a wall at the end of a Smarties binge. In the pantheon of computer-driven non-human sporting accomplishment, if Kasparov v Deep Blue is a 10 and sending a Black & Decker Toast-R-Oven down a slope tied to a snowboard is a one, then robot football might rate a five. The novelty of a yellow-carded beep-boop-beep-boop from some deeply funded German university’s tech lab wears off pretty quickly.

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