In order to be able to beat the world champion human soccer team in the year 2050, soccer playing robots will need to have very robust vision systems that can cope with drastic changes in illumination conditions. However, the current vision systems are still brittle and they require exhaustive and repeated color calibration procedures to perform acceptably well. In this paper, we investigate the suitability of biologically inspired saliency-based visual attention models for developing robust vision systems for soccer playing robots while focusing on the illumination invariance aspect of the solution. The experiment results demonstrate successful and accurate detection of the ball even when the illumination conditions change continuously and dramatically. © 2013 Springer-Verlag.