Back in Lisbon for the European Robotics League Major Tournament

This is a somehow special attendance for us in ERL. First of all we are in Lisbon just with Raphael and because of that we are using the robot of the hosting Team, which is a nicely designed Mbot.With this attendance we will push the cooperation between our both teams that we decided on after RoboCup in Magdeburg. Prior to the tournament the team was supporting us in configuring a simulator to be able to test beforehand. And Raphael then arrived here on Sunday warmly welcomed by the hosting Team. They supported him that well that the robot was able to map and navigate on the same evening with our software running. They also spend a dedicated helper, Tiago (not to confuse with the PAL Robotics Tiago), who is supporting Raphael during the week, so the team currently could be called Homer@Socrob :). It’s not just Tiago supporting but the whole team is giving their best and is always helpful, making it an awesome experience to attend a tournament without an own robot. Thanks again for all the support!

The Mbot during a navigation test. Goals are given by the refbox and the position estimates are evaluated with motion capturing markers, highlighting the benchmarking focus of the functionality benchmarks.

We will attend most of the tasks but it unfortunately is not possible to take part in all of them. So we skip FBM1 which is about object perception. It would simply to hard to train all objects and also solve the other tasks.

There are teams from Bristol, Birmingham, Pakistan, Germany and Portugal attending this ERL which is co-hosted with the ROMAN conference. There will be a workshop on Friday where robot competitions like ERL are discussed.

Being at ISR and Tecnico always gives you a nice view from the campus. The view from the testbed is even better as it's located on the 8th floor and seems to be one of the highest points in Lisbon.

2nd prize at DJI Technical Challenge in Shenzhen, China

Directly after the RoboCup WorlCup last week another homer team went to the DJI Robomaster Technical Challenge to Shenzhen in China. This was a somehow special attendance for us. We were invited by DJI to Shenzhen after our participation in the ICRA Robomaster Mobile Manipulation Challenge at the end of May in Singapore. They offered us to sponsor the flights and accommodation for up to five people. So the funding was set in advance, that is very unusual for the competitions we go to. However as the main team was taking part in RoboCup Japan at nearly the same time a new team needs to be formed. There were interested students that approached us multiple times and then formed a voluntary team, namely Adrian Skubella, Nick Theisen, Frank Ockenfeld and Thies Möhlenhof. They spend their free time in building and programming a robot and had just one month of preparation time. The fact that they did not have any previous practical robotics experience in advance is astonishing.

That’s how Ralph was born. A newly constructed robot that was built for stacking cubes autonomously. Maggie, the robot we have used for the ICRA Mobile Manipulation Challenge, could not be used because the requirements changed and the basis of Maggie gave birth to Marge, the second robot we used for the RoboCup. Basically the took the bones from Grimey and Maggie and some new parts to construct a new robot - Ralph.

This was the pre qualification round. The basic abilities of the robot to be able to transport the cubes from the starting area to the working are were shown. If this failed the competition would have been ended here for us. This wasn't that easy because there was close to no time for testing in the arena in advance.

The team went to Shenzhen at the end of July for the Robomaster event, which turned out to be a really big thing. The competitions are separated into the Robomaster main competition where Teams have to engineer robots and solve tasks remote controlled. This is more about hardware engineering and on the other side there where the technical challenges, where tasks were solved autonomously. The event was staged as a big sport event so we felt very important when we where in the spotlight in this elaborated arena, which felt like being part of a big event. In fact part of the competition where streamed on twitch.

This was the play field for the main competition. Very cool intimated by cameras, design and music. The technical challenges also took place, in the corners of this field.

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This was the team area. Looks like a mess :) There was no time for tidiness, just for work and testing. People were sleeping on the floor. Everywhere robots, robot parts and tools. In between people, food and drinks. No everyone would feel at home here, but we did.

Raphael came over to Shenzhen for helping the team a bit with the navigation and mapping and some general tips. We improved the robot a bit. The grippers where changed such that they had more space for holding the cubes. The judgment system was installed, which allows the referees to switch of the robot remotely after the time is up. The robot inspection was done in advance to each round. The testing time on the actual field was very limited. So in the end we could only test on the real environment once before the actual competition.

Round 1 - this wasn’t our day. After putting the robot inside the arena and setting everything up, Ralph was supposed to bring down the lift. Directly in the beginning the lift lilted along with the cubes and we had to cancel the run with not much robot movement at all. But other teams had also problems, which made us advance in the second round. Round 2 - The day before our laser scanner did announce to not work any longer for us in the competition. That’s a pity because we used it for navigation, localization, mapping and the cube detection. So we changed the code in a more static manner. We took a set of two cubes and were able to place it, just with robot movements and no knowledge about the arena at all. This turned out to be our best round. Ralph transported a tower of 40 cm from the starting area to the work area. Round 3 - We made it till round 3. Only five teams were left and we already had some prizes set. This was already more than we would have expected. In the third round we also had some problems and were not able to stack more cubes then before. In the end our second round was taken as the best and therefore as our end result.

In the end multiple teams got awarded with the 2nd prize, because the results where so close in the end.

2nd Prize for a team that just formed roughly a month ago and did not have any practical robot experience. Well done!.
Hanging out with other teams of the competition is fun! We tried so much local food that was very tasteful.
Us, on the way to the robot inspection. Before we could go on the field we had to verify that the robot fulfills the specifications made by the rulebook. That means limited size of 80x80x80 and a maximum weight of 25kg.

results

Our working area in between other teams of the technical challenge.
Last minute checks, before the robot inspection.
This was the prize for the winners of the main event. This one was really huge!.
The whole team including Tin, who did a great job volunteering for us during the week. Ralph is hidden by the cubes.
And one more group picture. This was taken just before the first round.

We want to thank DJI for the invitation, the volunteers Tin and Gavina, which where a great support for us during the challenge and the additional support we got from PROMOS which paid up the parts for the robot modification and the Visa for China. We are looking forward to the next challenges.

World Champion!!!

After more than half a year of preparation it’s done, we did it again: We won! It took as an additional week of a borderline living in terms of sleep and stress, but it was worth it. Both Lisa’s behaved well in the finale and therefore we were able to show a combination of multiple tasks and features.

First, we detected and analyzed the operator’s face in order to estimate his view direction and the point he’s facing. Lisa then turned to this point and searched for a newly positioned table by image analysis. Afterwards both Lisa’s performed a robot-robot handover, followed by a natural robot-human handover. Then, Blue Lisa was taught a new command using only natural language, while Lila Lisa tried to place an object on the previously localized table - but unfortunately her arm stopped working. Understanding the newly taught command, Blue Lisa put an object in the trash and started getting more of it. It was a very dynamic scenario, and Lisa hasn’t had any previous knowledge about what she would be executing. In summary, Lisa executed a previously unknown command including previously unknown positions and randomly chosen objects, chosen by the referees. It was a high risk approach for a finale demonstration, but everything luckily - and with a lot of preparation, hard work and testing - went out just fine and we were very happy.

Competition days were really exciting from the start: First places have closely scored each round, even in the finals. It was the most thrilling and exciting finale we ever experienced! All teams did a great job. In the end, Tech United Eindhoven reached second place and team ToBI from Bielefeld third. The @home league has grown to one of the biggest leagues at RoboCop, now featuring more than 30 teams shared between the Open Platform League, in which we participated, and newly found Social Standard Platform League (SSPL) and Domestic Standard Platform League (DSPL).

Closing the days of competition, there was a impressive party with all participants at the evening with traditional Japanese shows, food and drinks - a great event.

Touching the prize is a wonderful feeling after all this hard work!.

In the Open Challenge we did a team to team cooperation for which we are very thankful for - thank you very, very much team Happy Mini from Japan! We really like this team that supported us so much in our Open Challenge, making a team collaboration with a distance around half of the world possible. We also want to say a big thank you to Ivanna Mykhalchychyna and Moritz Loehne who also did an immense part of the preparations and their contribution were ventral elements of the success in Japan. Furthermore we want to thank all Sponsors: PROMOS, Einst e.V., Sparkasse Stiftung Zukunft, AStA and SHD, who supported us financially and made participation in this event possible!

After the competition is before the competition, thus Raphael will fly over to China for the DJI Robomaster Technical Challenge tomorrow, where our second team is taking part in.

Not just we felt at home in the arena: this pigeon was with us for two days, enjoying the competitions from the best spots.

Competition day 2

Day 2 ended. As of now we are still leading but the Restaurant points have not yet been announced.

The scores as of now.

The General Purpose Service Robot took place in the morning. This is a big task for the robot. In principle the robot should execute whatever command it gets and this could be a big variety of commands that includes interacting with persons and objects of any kind at any location and it’s also possible that the robot is asked to follow outside the apartment. Basically all functionality from Stage 1 could be evaluated in any combination.

Lisa was able to recognize most of the commands, but as we were targeting category two tasks were harder to solve and therefore more risky. First we had to count the containers in the balcony and report the number back. The second command was to find a onion in the corridor. In the end Lisa had to find a person in the living room and guide the person another location. This is where it stopped working.

In the second round we had to find all cleaning stuff in the living room. Lisa started to go and count at all possible locations but failed due to a Kinect 2 outage.

The restaurant task went pretty well even if we had to restart the task once. The task is to find a calling person in an unknown location, find tables and recognize the orders of the calling persons in the bar.We had to restart once because of a false detection, but Lisa showed her abilities afterwards. She found two calling persons and recognized their orders correctly.

This is the whole league. A lot of people an robots are on there.

We are now looking forward to tomorrows tasks. EEGPSR, Set up the table and the Open Challenge will take place.

Leading after first competition day

Wow what a day, but in the end it was with all the effort. We are leading after the first competition, just some points before the world champion of last year, team ToBi.

Here are the scores. We are currently leading, but it's close!.

First up in the morning was the Speech and Person Recognition task. In this task the robot is initially facing a wall and turns around after a while. Behind it a crowd has formed randomly, consisting of female, male, sitting, lying, standing, pointing and waving person. This crowd needs to be analyzed. But be careful just the crowd not spectators, that are  all around the arena watching the competition. We had two rounds where the better one counted. Then the speech recognition is evaluated by giving questions about trivia, the arena or specific questions about the arena. In the first and second round we understood all questions correct. That’s rare, because there are many people around talking, there is noise from random devices and  there are other robots chit chatting. Even some people observing the competition are not able to understand the questions that have been given to the robots.

The Speech and Person recognition task. Here you see the current operator asking questions to the robot and the crowd in the background on the couch.

Then next up was the Help Me Carry task. Same procedure - two round - and the better one will be counted. In this task the robot should assist in handling groceries after shopping. The story is that an operator arrived with a car somewhere and has a lot to carry. He enters the apartment and leads the robot to the car. While this the robot needs to track the person till the car. Not an easy task as there are also many people around and the robot in addition gets distracted by volunteers that step in between the part and stay ed there for not just a short time but quite a while.

Ok, when everything is going well the robot should reach the car with the operator. Then the operator will hand a bag to the robot. There is a second hard thing to solve. The operator hands the shopping bag to the robot. So the robot is in charge to find the bag in the hand of the operator and then realize that he released the bag. Jupp and when there are a lot of people around and some may also carry a bag this gets a tough task. Afterwards the robot should place the shopping bag at a given location inside the house. And find an other person to help. This person will then be guided outside the car by the robot.

Lukas and Malte preparing the Help Me Carry task some minutes before the competition.
Here is Lisa that followed Mauricio to a car spot. This spot was previously unknown. That are the pictures that are looking good for the media but will make every robotic enthusiast in Robocup cry. There are children close the robot. They liked red buttons in the past. They get very close to a robot, they want to shake hands. In our case they were to close at the robot such that we were not able to find the bag in the hand of Mauricio. In general we like children, but not close to the robot :D.

In the first round we got outside but where distracted by the person stepping in between the robot and the operator. In the second round we actually followed to the car but where distracted by that many persons around the robot. Thus we could not naturally take the bag. But we got it and tried to bring it in, where Lisa decided to not enter the home.

And at the end of the day, there was the Storing Groceries task. Lisa found 6 objects. Surprisingly Lisa came out first. After finding the objects on a table. But the arm failed to execute the calculated trajectory properly.

Found the apple, got a path, execution failed some centimeters before the apple.

Next up is the GPSR and the Restaurant task.