For the first time, the team from the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) at Bielefeld University has won RoboCup, the robotics world championship. The Team of Bielefeld secured its victory in the household service league [email protected] on Sunday, 3 July. The CITEC team competed with the service robots Floka and Tobi, who were assisted by Amiro mini robots. During the competition, which took place from 30 June – 4 July 2016, the Bielefeld team triumphed over its 23 opponents. RoboCup is the world’s leading – and largest – competition for intelligent robots.
The Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology has competed in RoboCup since 2009, and the team has twice made it into the top, winning third place in 2012 (Mexico City) and 2015 (Hefei, China). In Sunday’s finale, the Bielefeld team took first place, followed by the TechUnited team from Eindoven, the Netherlands (2nd place), the [email protected] team from Hefei, China (3rd place), the [email protected] team from Tokyo, Japan (4th place) and the [email protected] from Koblenz, Germany (5th place).
Members of the Bielefeld team include both CITEC researchers and students from the Faculty of Technology. Team leader is Privatdozent Dr. Sven Wachsmuth, who also heads CITEC’S Central Lab Facilities. “Our victory was aided by the fact that we were the most consistent team in all of the different subtasks. Particularly in the ‘General Purpose Service Robot’ event, which was about the flexible application of the robot’s abilities, we were able to carve out a point lead for ourselves,” says Wachsmuth.
Members of this year’s team include CITEC researchers Sebastian Meyer zu Borgsen, Florian Lier and Timo Korthals, as well as students Marvin Barther, Julian Exner, Jonas Gerlach, Philip Kenneweg, Luca Michael Lach, Henri Neumann, Nils Neumann, Johannes Kummert, Leroy Rügemer, Tobias Schumacher, Suchit Sharma, Dominik Sixt and Corinna Wewer. Preparation for the RoboCup competition is incorporated as part of a university seminar, and each year different students from the course work with the team.
The service robots Floka and Tobi had to make it through the ten events of the household service league ([email protected]) in order to reach the finale. This year, the robot Floka made its first appearance at RoboCup. Floka belongs to the large-scale CITEC project “Cognitive Service Robotics Apartment as Ambient Host” (CSRA) as the apartment’s helpful and unobtrusive host. In this project, researchers are working on a socially competent apartment that autonomously provides support to its residents. Together with Floka the robot, the apartment is designed to learn to react flexibly to the needs of its residents, and to offer appropriate solutions for the situation at hand. For the competition, the team had a duplicate Tobi robot with them. CITEC has traveled to the RoboCup competition with Tobi since 2009, and each year, new programs are written for its software and its technology is updated. Tobi has a mobile base and a grasping arm. It is also fitted with deep sensors, color cameras, and two laser scanners that enable the robot to perceive its surroundings. The robotic prototype Biron, which stands for “Bielefeld Robot Companion,” served as the model for Tobi. The Amiro mini robots provided assistance to Floka and Tobi as mobile sensors: in one task, the mini robots identified where people were located in a room for Floka.
Other events in the RoboCup household service league include person recognition, following and guiding, and navigation. In many cases, these events are about getting robots “in shape” to provide assistance to senior citizens and young people.
The RoboCup world championship was hosted in Germany for the second time, the first being Bremen in 2006. The inaugural RoboCup completion was held in Japan in 1997. The goal of the RoboCup competition is to help speed up the development of affordable and reliable autonomous robots. Applications from the household service league can be used to develop service robots for the home. What makes RoboCup special is that after the competition, most teams publicly disclose how they programmed their robots, which allows others to benefit from the progress they have made. The competition is divided into five main leagues. In addition to the household service league, teams compete in soccer, logistics, human rescue and the workplace to win the championship title.
CITEC is one of 43 Clusters of Excellence in Germany, and is the only cluster specializing in robotics. CITEC is working to make technical systems intuitive and easy to operate. Its interdisciplinary approach combines cognitive research with technology and engineering. Since 2007, CITEC has been funded by the federal and state governments of Germany as part of the Excellence Initiative. Around 250 scientists conduct research at the Cluster of Excellence.
Sponsors of the Cluster of Excellence’s RoboCup team include the software service provider Itelligence AG in Bielefeld, the sensor manufacturer SICK AG in Waldkirch (Breisgau) and the car dealership Becker-Tiemann in Bünde (Ostwestfalen).
The team recorded the progress of the competition on its Twitter page at https://twitter.com/clf_citec.
More information is available online at:
• Video clip on the CITEC team’s preparations for RoboCup: www.youtube.com/watch?v=59ogrNylz5c
• CITEC RoboCup team website: https://cit-ec.de/en/content/robocuphome
• RoboCup World Championship in Leipzig: http://robocup2016.org/de/
• “Floka, the Social Robot: A Companion for the Apartment of the Future”: www.youtube.com/watch?v=t87agABeNkI
• “CITEC Robot Makes First Appearance at RoboCup World Championship” (press release from 29 June 2016): http://ekvv.uni-bielefeld.de/blog/uninews/entry/citec_robot_floka_makes_first