The robots see the game as a “state machine,” a flow chart of best-case scenarios. A state machine asks “what is my status?” and then executes a routine based on that status.
Do I see a ball?
If yes, then go to it.
Am I near a ball?
If yes, then kick it at the opponent’s goal.
If the robot is confused about its status, all of its actions will be incorrect — and even the right status doesn’t guarantee a useful action.
Yes, real robots. Robots are awesome. These guys hope to have a team of robots that can beat professional human players by 2050. Unfortunately, it’s like he says: with state machines, it would be an unbelievable feat to get them working. It will likely require adaptive AI to succeed.