Running Robot Beijing

Sometimes something unexpected happens and suddenly one finds himself on the other side of the world. Something like that just happened to four brave Bit-Bots: Last Week Jasper and Sebastian (human), as well as Rory and Jack (humanoid) were informed that they were supposed to fly to Beijing a few days later to give a presentation at the first Running Robot Competition…

This message left us with a lot of excitement, but also a lot of stress: There was so much to do in such little time; and so all gears were set in motion to ensure that we got our visa by wednesday evening, so we could board our flight on thursday morning. The flight went pretty uneventful, and just 19 hours later we found ourselves at the convention centre, ready to set up. Our presentation was supposed to be on Saturday, so there was more than enough time to prepare everything and everything should be smooth sailing, right? Wrong! Turns out, packing in a hurry leads to chaos and so we stood in Beijing with two charged and two empty batteries and without a charging cable, and with a very short LAN cable. But we arranged and everyone seemed to have liked our presentation. In fact, it went so well, that chinese television decided to have an interview with us (link).

But we hadn’t just taken this journey to give a short talk. We also wanted to see the other presentations and, of course, the competition. While, sadly, most of the other demonstrations turned out to be dancing robots that play keyframe animations, which is not really interesting for our research, we still met many new, and surprisingly a few known faces. The competition consisted of several parcour elements the robot had to cross. They had eight minutes to solve eight different tasks. Most of these tasks could be solved rather easily with a decent colour recognition, but for a first year it still was a challenge and we hope the difficulty will improve in the next years and drive the competition towards new smart solutions. Maybe reducing the colours of the parcour elements would be a good start to force the participants to use artificial intelligence.

Lastly we also found some time to look around in Beijing. Thanks to our amazing guides we got to see the Forbidden City, the Olympic Park and Tian’anmen Square. We also went to visit the campus of the Tsinghua University and get to see our guides’ lab.

And suddenly, just three days after our arrival it was already time to leave. It were stressful, yet very interesting days. And maybe we will come back one day.

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