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Are events like Robocup advantageous to the development of robotic advancement?
Or is it merely entertainment which advances robotics by allowing entry level participation which helps maintain interest?
Do the DARPA Grand's provide a better vehicle for advancement? (pun intended)

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Robotics is a relatively new field of study. Besides technological problems, there are psychological and even moral issues that need to be resolved.

Some examples of these non-technological issues include familiarity with and fear of robots, trusting robots and robot rights. Other issues have to do with popularity. You may be interested in reading this similar question asking whether toy robots move technology forwards. Many of the arguments there hold for any kind of activity including robots. With that in mind, let's focus on the technological aspects only.

With contests for simpler robots, such as Robocup, generally the effect is that the popularity of robotics increases. With more people getting drawn to robotics, the technology is sure to move forwards. In other words, popularity brings advancements, which is true for most if not all scientific fields.

The more complex challenges, like the DARPA challenge surely help advance the technology. However, they are more of a short-term solution than a long-term one. With the DARPA challenge, you attract expert roboticists to create a solution for a complex problem. That's good, but that's just it. With Robocup, you create interest in robotics among many young students. You don't really get anything out of it immediately, but you get a new generation of roboticists that each would go on the rest of their lives inventing new things.

While both kinds of challenges are definitely beneficial, I would say the ones like Robocup have a better shot at advancing robotics towards its goals (pun responded). Imagine if only one type of challenge existed. If there were DARPA challenges only, robotics would advance greatly, but eventually roboticists would die out and there would be no one to pick up where they left. If there were Robocup challenges only, you don't make an instant improvement, but you will have a continuous supply of fresh minds entering the field.

In conclusion, DARPA challenges provide instant solutions, while Robocup contests provide a sustainable source of inventors.

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