It’s unbelievable but almost a year has passed since the last world championship in Japan has ended and the world championship in Montreal, Canada, is just around the corner! This year, the schedule is a little unusual: The set-up days are Saturday and Sunday and the regular tournament doesn’t start until Monday.
Like last year the arrival of the team members happened in chunks: Jessica has already arrived yesterday and used the day to explore the city. Everyone else traveled today: Maike’s flight from Stockholm left at 06:05, Judith, Jasper, Marc, Timon, Niklas and Daniel left Hamburg around 10:10. They re-united in Paris and started the last (and biggest) part of the journey from Paris to Montreal with significant delay, but together. The flight was mostly used to work a little on the software, meet new teams and catch up with some sleep. The airport in Montreal was then firmly in the hands of the RoboCup community: Flights from Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt arrived nearly simultaneously and brought almost all European RoboCup teams to Canada at the same time.
We then made the first experience with the famous Canadian kindness during the trip from the airport to our accommodation. People here are incredible accommodating and you don’t even need to ask for help, you’ll frequently get kind offers of help. Then again everything is very coordinated here: The shuttle buses from the airport had an “instructor” who decided how many people could board the bus. This amount was strictly determined by the amount of seats and luggage space available. What a difference compared to Japan where people got payed to push as many people as possible into one train!
View towards Convention Center and river
We have rented a small apartment a little outside the city center this year. This makes the travel to the competition venue a little longer. However, it also means we are all staying together, we can have breakfast whenever we want, we can cook dinner together (if we have the time) – and of course work as long and as much at night as we want! The first arrival at our apartment was surprisingly unpleasant: The code for the front door was wrong and of course none of us had a Canadian SIM card or data roaming available. Luckily the landlord randomly came by after a little while and the short drama had a quick and happy ending. The rest of the evening was used for a short grocery shopping trip and a quick dinner. Now most team members are already asleep, which is no wonder since it’s already 5 AM in Germany.
Tomorrow morning the competition hall will open at 8 AM and of course we want to be among the first to enter. We hope to record some images to train our vision and adapt our walking algorithm to the local turf right away. Much has changed since the last world championship, both when it comes to the software and hardware. The level of motivation in the team is higher than it has been for a long time and thus we’re all looking very much forward to the beginning of RoboCup 2018 tomorrow!
Convention Center, Palais des congrès de Montréal
It seems like yesterday that RoboCup 2016 was in Germany, the world championship on home soil – and suddenly the next world championship is just around the corner! In 2017 it takes place in Nagoya, Japan. While Maike was the first to arrive in Nagoya already on Saturday, almost all other team members finally arrived today as well. Tomorrow, just in time for the start of the two set-up days, Jasper will be the last of our team to join us and will thereby reunite our team again.
After a total travel time of more than 12 hours, first to Helsinki and then to Nagoya (for Daniel and Niklas with an additional stopover in Tokyo), everyone is totally tired. Nevertheless, we still had enough energy to explore the surroundings of our hostel near the central station in Nagoya at least a little bit. As a member of the organizing committee, Maike was already able to inspect the hall for the very first time. All in all, it looks very promising, even if our robots will likely have some problems dealing with some gaps in the artificial turf. However, we will only be able to investigate this more tomorrow, when we are all permitted to enter the hall with our whole equipment.
After a traditional Japanese dinner, the suitcases are now packed with the equipment for tomorrow and we are looking forward to starting a new RoboCup adventure at 7:30 Japanese time (which is 0:30 German time)!
A few minutes ago the first Round Robin match against the RoboPatriots ended 0:0. On the very same morning team members worked in groups of two on the vision, walking, standing up and on the Hardware until short before the game. A new robot inspection was required multiple times, because the robots first got bottle caps attached as cleats, after that arm extension made of bottle caps and in the end bottle cap shin-pads. By now we have a large collection of empty and cap-less water bottles around our team table.
Shortly before the game started we faced a critical situation as only one robot was able to play with it’s Hardware and all others struggled with minor or major Hardware problems. In the beginning of the game we finally had three Darwins on the field as strikers and Kuddel, one of our self-designed and self-made Hambot robots, had his first use as a goal keeper. One could easily see the huge progress the team made during the last two days: The Darwins still fell down when they tried to walk, but they could stand up stable to continue playing immediately. In addition, we reached our first intermediate goal, which was to use Hambot in at least one game. Unfortunately the joy about that didn’t last very long, because after about a minute one of our Darwins fell into the Hambot unfavorably. Hambot still stood leaned towards the back for a few more seconds, but then he could not hold the position anymore and he crashed into his own goal. This year the goal is made out of tight wire instead of a soft net. This has the advantage of a stable goal, but it got fatal for the Hambot – multiple fractures of the hip were the result after only one minute of playing. However, our opponents had difficulties with the walking, too. At least they developed some kind of stable walk that reminds one of skiing, but it brought them forward only millimeters. That way the first half ended without anything else to report. After the break, Wheatly replaced the injured Kuddel in the goal and performed well even though the behavior was not tested beforehand. In fact, he recognized a field line as a ball sometimes and threw himself to one side, but he stood up stable in the first trial every time and searched for more dangerous balls. Our field player (first Fiona and later on Tamara) made it headways now, too. They walked from outside the center circle to the middle in order to kick the ball. Unfortunately they failed to kick the ball and instead they always fell right onto the ball. The RoboPatriots didn’t even had one robot on the field most of the time and so the second half of the game ended uneventfully.
In about an hour the next game will start and the agenda is clear: Whaetly shall play instead of Kuddel, who is still under medical treatment. To achieve an even better game play, some parameters of the goal keeper behavior need to be adjusted. Additionally, the Darwin walking still requires improvement. However, first of all we work on a stable shoot. We hope we can already see the first improvements during the next game against Bold Hearts. Bold Hearts by the way ended their first game with a 0:0 against the empty field. All results are published on the Humanoid website half an hour after the game at latest. So it is worth taking a look at the site after our next game, because we are probably slower with publishing the next game report than the TC needs to announce the result.
The drawing for the first Round Robin took place at the team leader meeting yesterday. Unfortunately only 15 teams participate in the Kid Size league this year and therefore the game plan changed significantly compared to last year: Instead of 8 groups with three teams each we have four groups with four teams each in the first Round Robin this year. As only 15 teams showed up in China, the last spot in one of the groups remains empty. The second Round Robin which follows the Intermediate Round will then have four groups with three teams each.
This year’s drawing was more fortunate for us than last year’s, because we are in group D with one empty spot. However, that does not mean we will be placed at least third in the group automatically: One match will be against the empty goal, which might lead to own goals and therefore to a win of team “_blank_”. Set for the group are our special friends and runner-ups from last year from the University of Hertfordshire – team Bold Hearts. The good news are: As we are starting in the same Round Robin, it means we cannot be defeated by them in the Intermediate Round again! In addition, the RoboPatriots from George Mason University were drawn into our group. This team is one of the most interesting ones, because they are not coding their behaviour beforehand but rather train their robots with Machine Learning during the tournament. Therefore, their game play might change rapidly from game to game and it is therefore always surprising to watch them. A huge advantage is that we only have Darwin teams in our group. The artificial turf is softer than at the GermanOpen and therefore a bit easier for the Darwins, but the small robots still struggle with their stability a lot. Great potential for an exciting Round Robin in any case!
Our first matches will take place tomorrow at 12:30 PM an 3:00 PM local time, which relates to 6:30 AM and and 9:00 AM German time. The first match will be against the RoboPatriots and in the second match we’ll meet the Bold Hearts. The last game against the empty goal will be at the 20th, the exact time is not yet set. The game schedule and results will be published on the new website of the Humanoid League under “Results” as soon as the internet allows it this year.
In about an hour the Robot Inspection starts and the rest of the team is feverishly working on standing up and walking of Hambot and the Darwins and the ball and goal recognition to get ready for the first two group games tomorrow.
We started at 6:30 – thanks to jet lag and going to bed early – well rested and fresh into the new day. The RoboCup hall will open on Saturday for the two so called setup days and therefore we needed to take the hotel environment for preparation work.
Because of the ongoing rain the team meeting could not take place at the swimming pool but at one of our rooms instead. The wall was quickly converted to a todo board and tasks were distributed. As it is nearly impossible to test vision or behaviour under the hotel conditions, we concentrated besides of these homepage posts on animations (projectable movements).
GOAL, who will hopefully has his first assignment as a goal keeper during this world championship, needs to learn to stand up. In addition we were working on a larger variety of stable shots for the Darwin robots. The behaviour will take the goal information into consideration and therefore a good combination of ball and goal tracking is needed. We managed to prepare a lot, which can be tested in the competition hall tomorrow. Our software is in a very good condition some hours in advance of the tournament for the first time. The behaviour needs to be optimized and tested, but the functionality is all existent. However, we are all excited whether GOAL will be ready until the start of the first game, beeing not only able to stand up but also to defend our goal.
The rooftop of our hotel has a small covered area in which we made our new home. We enjoyed the sight and the climate as well as a productive work atmosphere. Just the power grid caused some difficulties: The ground wire had 60 Volt attached – which makes for example all metal pieces of a laptop beeing energized while the power supply cable is attached and therefore the skin is prickling every time someone touches them. Thats tingly software engineering the Brazilian way 😉
We used the lunch brake not only for a mental cool-down, we also went swimming in the sea and ran riot in the waves. Afterwards we went to work again with twice the motivation we had before. Since the noon the Bodensee-Haie RoboCup team from Gymnasium BZM Markdorf started working next to us on the roof top. The team consists of four boys and a female teacher and they are participating successfully in the Junior Soccer League.
We additionally met the Hulks
at the beach.
A small appendix to the Brazilian fauna from the afternoon: On our way to a new supermarket we had to pass a small tarn in which a crocodile was bobbing up and down!
We spend the evening in a small hotel restaurant a few hundred meters to the north of our own hotel. They had a large and heavy buffet which also served vegetarian and gluten free food. On our way back we mad a short loop way to a small market and bought (amongst others) some Cashew nuts.
In the meantime the hotel is crowded with other RoboCup teams. They are sitting in the lobby, on the roof top and an all other public spaces preparing for the next day (this can be also recognized by the vanishing wlan power). We are really looking forward to start testing and meeting other teams in the RoboCup hall tomorrow.