ToBI Competes for the Title of World Champion in China

Bielefeld University participates in the RoboCup World Championship for the seventh time

From 19–22 July 2015, robots will compete against each other at RoboCup, the largest robotic exhibition in the world, held this year in the Chinese city of Hefei. The team from the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) will again participate in the event. For the seventh time in a row, the Bielefeld University team will battle it out together with the service robot ToBI in the household service league “RoboCup@Home” for the title of world champion. Previously, ToBI made it into the top eight, and at the 2012 competition in Mexico City, it even took third place. The robot “ToBI” is named after its team: Team of Bielefeld.

ToBI und das CITEC-Team beim diesjährigen German-RoboCup in Magdeburg. Die Bielefelder kamen auf den dritten Platz. Foto: Universität Bielefeld/CITEC“On 16 June, ToBI was already securely packed and flown off to China,” says team leader Dr. Sven Wachsmuth, head of the CITEC Central Labs. “On 14 July, we will follow ToBI to China, where we will see how we measure up to the international competition.” A total of 17 teams from all over the world have qualified for the competition in the household service league. In addition to Bielefeld, Bonn, and Koblenz, who will represent Germany, teams from the Netherlands, Chile, Mexico, China, Japan, Brazil, and Thailand will also participate. The world championship will start on 17 July with team preparations, and on 19 July, the competition begins. “Normally we conduct our research and development in sterile and controlled laboratories. By taking part in the RoboCup@Home league, it is possible to test our technical developments under real-life conditions and to observe how robots behave in an unfamiliar environment,” explains Wachsmuth.

As with every year, ToBI and his robotic competitors must prove themselves in different tests. The demands placed on the robots vary from task to task, and the referee awards points for different skills. For instance, ToBI must be able to understand what it should do with only the help of a spoken explanation. In a “follow me” task, for example, ToBI would ask “WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU?” and the user would say, “ToBI, follow me!” to which Tobi would ask for confirmation by saying “DO YOU WANT ME TO FOLLOW?” to which the user would answer “yes.” ToBi would then say, “OK, GO AHEAD.”

In the category “Recognizing and Moving Objects,” the robots have to first recognize different objects on a shelf, such as a soda can or a paper cup, take it out, and place it somewhere else. ToBI should not, however, just be able to follow orders and move objects; it should also be able to interact directly with people. In a test to recognize individ-uals, the service robot has to identify a person again from among a large group. After this, the robot has to describe the group, including how many people are in the group, whether the people are sitting or standing, and whether the members of the group are male or female. In the Robozoo event, the robot has to entertain its audience. Together with four autonomous mini robots (AMiRo), they will perform a rehearsed choreographed dance. During the dance, the robots will dance different steps and interact with the audience. In the “Navigation Test,” ToBI will have to recognize obstacles and react appropriately to them, for example, by moving out of the way, talking to people, or taking a new path.

In the second part of the main competition, there is also a free category in addition to the required events. Here, each team is allowed to decide what their robot will perform, and which of their robot’s skills they would like to highlight. The required events consist of a situation in a restaurant, where the robots act as “waiters” and serve guests. In another test, the robots function as “nurses” and deliver medicine to patients, or help someone get back up who has fallen down. The “Wake me up test” deals with the question of whether the robot is successful in getting a sleeping person to wake up and also bringing her breakfast in bed. For the finale, a jury made up of external judges and internal judges from the league will evaluate the robots. Such a task might include how ToBI works together with the mini AMiRo robots to show a person the way out in the event of a loss of electricity.

In addition to RoboCup@Home, robots can take part in six other areas of competition. As opposed to the household service league, robots competing in the RoboCup-Soccer event orient themselves in a familiar and non-distracting environment, but to make up for this, they have to move with much more complexity and speed. There are also search and rescue robots, as well as robots that perform logistics-related tasks.

The service robot ToBI is based on the prototype “Biron,” which stands for “Bielefeld Robot Companion.” In order to measure up to the competition, CITEC researchers are constantly working on further developing the robot and adding new abilities and components for each competition. Currently, ToBI is equipped with a grasping arm. It also has two deep sensors, color cameras, and lasers for spatial orientation.

The Bielefeld team consists of 13 members. Dr. Sven Wachsmuth and Sebastian Meyer zu Borgsen are the team leaders. Scientific staff members include Dr. Leon Ziegler (Applied Computer Science) and Timo Korthals (Cognitronics and Sensor Technology). These four CITEC re-searchers are supported by Master’s students Günes Minareci, Leroy Rügemer, Jonas Gerlach, Christian Limberg, Svenja Kösters, Kevin Gardeja, Nils Neumann, Marvin Barther, and Hendrik ter Horst.

The researchers will publish their team’s activities at the competition on Twitter (@clf_citec), as well as on the CITEC website. A “Homecoming Event” is also planned for after the team’s successful participation at RoboCup, where the researchers will celebrate and demonstrate just what their robots can do.

More information available online:
To get a better idea of what kinds of events the robots will be competing in and what types of tasks they will perform, you can watch the team’s 2014 qualification video on youtube:

Dr.-Ing. Sven Wachsmuth , Bielefeld University
Head, Central Lab Facilities
Telephone: 0521 106-2937