The RoboCup soccer tourney gets all the publicity, but the RoboCup Rescue competition kicking off this week in Germany is thrilling in a more macabre way: Each year the rubble-strewn maze gets more and more complicated, as robots use AI and all their mechanical faculties to locate (though not necessarily recover) dolls that scream, wriggle and emit carbon dioxide and heat.

"The robots are the mouse and the dolls are the cheese," US National Institute of Standards and Technology's Adam Jacoff (heh heh, sorry dude) told the New Scientist. Points go for the speediest contender, as well as the one who can best draw a map of the maze. We doubt you'll see this clawed beast, or this backhoe-like behemoth, but the bots in the video seem well enough equipped to deal with the grim realities they face. [NewScientist via KurzweilAI.net]