Bielefeld’s household robot serves in competition

‘Tobi’ at the German RoboCup competition at Magdeburg

The Bielefeld robot ‘ToBI’ is competing in the ‘RoboCup German open’ in Magdeburg, which is being held from Thursday to Saturday, 3 until 5 April. During the competition, robots from German and international research institutes will be tested for their skills. There will be football robots, rescue robots and also robots for industrial use, amongst others. The team representing the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology is entering ‘ToBI’ into the @home league of the competition.

The household league starts with the ‘Robo-Zoo’. The robots will present their skills alongside one another and leave the public to decide which one performs the best. Following this, a jury of experts will judge whether the robots have mastered the basic functions which are needed as a domestic assistant: grasping and placement of objects, avoiding obstacles and understanding language, including the ability to respond to commands and questions.

The biggest challenge that every service robots faces are scenarios in which it has to prove it can ‘think for itself’. In the scenario, ‘Follow me’ the robot has to follow a person by itself in an environment which is unfamiliar to it. In an emergency situation, a robot has to detect if a person has fallen in an apartment in order to call for help. In a restaurant scenario, ToBI and its competitors will be tested on how well they work as waiters, by handing out food and drinks.

The Bielefeld robot is named after its team (‘ToBI’- Team of Bielefeld). The team has taken part in RoboCup German Open competition every year since 2009. Its robot is based on the research prototype Biron (Bielefeld Robot Companion). New skills are programmed into the robot for each competition, partly with new added technology. At the moment, it is equipped with a gripping arm, moves along on wheels and explores its environment with depth sensors and a camera.

This year, the team is made up of eight students from the Master’s degree programme Intelligent Systems from the Faculty of Technology and four CITEC researchers. The head of the team is senior lecturer Dr. Sven Wachsmuth, Head of the central lab facilities at CITEC.

In previous years TobI has reached the final stage of the German competition on several occasions. In addition to the competition in Germany, there are other national competitions, including the ‘RoboCup Japan Open’, the ‘RoboCup China Open’ and the ‘RoboCup Iran Open,’ and the RoboCup world championships.
Since 2009, the Bielefeld based robot researchers have also taken part every year in the world-wide competition for autonomous robots. In 2012, the team reached third place in Mexico, its best result in a RoboCup competition so far. Just a few weeks after the competition in Magdeburg, the team will be going to the yearly RoboCup competition which takes place in Brazil. There, the team will face international competitors from 21 – 24 July in João Pessoa, the capital of the state of Paraíba.

In July, the team will be posting news from the RoboCup competition in Brasil.

Further information available on the Internet:

Jörg Heeren, Bielefeld University
Center of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology
Telephone: +49 (0)5211066562