Bielefeld robot competes at RoboCup for the fifth time

A team from Bielefeld University is bringing their robot, ToBI, to the international robotics competition RoboCup 2013. RoboCup is the World Cup of autonomous robots – this year in Eindhoven in the Netherlands. More than 2500 participants from 40 countries will be competing. The Bielefeld team is made up of Bielefeld University students and researchers from the Center of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC).

ToBI and the Bielefeld Team will be competing in the RoboCup @Home league. In this league, robots must navigate inside apartments, understand and communicate with humans, and perform services. “The teams in this league develop new robotic skills for scenarios that will play an important role in the home care of the future”, Dr. Sven Wachsmuth, head of the Bielefeld team explains. Twenty-two teams will be competing in the @Home league.

The very first test in the @Home league reveals which robots have been programmed well. With the audience watching, the robot moves into the arena and has to hand in the competition entry from. The subsequent test is the “follow me” scenario. The robot is introduced to a person whom he must follow through the audience. To achieve this, continuous recognition of the person is necessary, a skill also central to the “cocktail party” scenario. In that scenario, the robot must take guests’ orders and bring them the desired drink. To do so, it must recognize the guests’ faces and bring the right drink to the right person. In an emergency scenario, the robot must locate the source of a fire in an apartment and guide people out of the apartment. In the “clean up” scenario, the robot must clean up a room in which various objects have been strewn. There are six further leagues in RoboCup 2013. Aside from the @Home league, robots compete in RoboCup Soccer, RoboCup Rescue and solving logical problems.

The Bielefeld team has participated in RoboCup each year since 2009. It takes on the competition with a robot named after the Team of Bielefeld (ToBI), which is upgraded and programmed to perform new functions for each new contest. ToBI has one grasping arm, rolls on wheels, and navigates its environment with a depth sensor and a camera. The Bielefeld team has also competed in the local RoboCup German Open since 2009. In April 2013, the team took fifth place in Magdeburg.

In this year, the Bielefeld team is comprised of eight students from the Cognitive Informatics Bachelor’s program or the Master’s study program Intelligent Systems at the Technical Faculty as well as three CITEC researchers. ToBI and his eponymous team have been getting better each year. In 2010, the team held seventh place in the @Home league, followed by fifth place in 2011, and third place in 2012.

The first RoboCup took place in 1997 in Nagoya, Japan. Since then it has been held in, among other places, Bremen, Germany; Istanbul, Turkey; Atlanta, Georgia, USA, and Graz, Austria.

The Bielefeld University team will be blogging each day from the competition in Eindhoven: As in past years, the team will celebrate its participation in the RoboCup with a homecoming event. ToBI already showed off his new skills at the celebration in early October.