Italian robot bends it like Beckham

David Beckham will still play a “decisive role” in the England World Cup squad’s on-field performance – thanks to advanced robotic soccer technology that will enable the injured star to interactively coach his team-mates as they prepare for South Africa in June.

Using a specially-designed WiFi-enabled hand-held remote, Beckham will control the cybernetic player – dubbed ‘Robo-Becks’ – to strike practice free kicks against the England defence during pre-tournament training sessions. Beckham will be the first footballer to use the soccer robot, which has been developed by Professor Roberto Pesciolino at Milan University’s Istituto di Automatismo Avanzato. A childhood friend of Fabio Cappello, Professor Pesciolino contacted the England manager when an initial offer to help the Italian national team was turned down on health and safety grounds.

“Once the robot has been set-up it can strike the ball in exactly the same way over and over – something a human player could never do,” Pesciolino told E&T. “That allows defenders to test different approaches and formations they use in a particular situation.”

The device could even prevent another penalty shoot-out disappointment, the boffin claims, by being programmed with the styles of players from England’s opponents: “We can model them in the robot’s software so goalkeepers can work-out ‘best strategy’ to use against each penalty taker,” Pesciolino explains.

Although the England camp is refusing to officially confirm the existence of Robo-Becks, it has confirmed that crocked Beckham will be accompanying the national squad to the World Cup as a “non-playing team member”.

Pesciolino predicts that future versions of his technology will be able to replicate tackling and ball control skills. England’s opening opponents, the USA, are reportedly looking at adapting a so-called ‘cyber-quarterback’ developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for NFL teams to help them practice defending against long throw-ins.

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