It’s still a quiet autumn in Sydney, but this will soon come to an end: It is RoboCup again and for the second time in the history of RoboCup it will take place in Australia. This time in the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre to be precise. Just about 10 minutes walking distance away we set up our base camp. But back to the beginning and the 34 respectively 40 hours of journey that stood between the departure in Hamburg and our arrival in Sydney. Due to organizational issues two team members, Jan and Finn, already left at 10 am on June 28th. The others’ (Florian, Jonas, Niklas, Timon, Jasper, Judith, Marc, Tanja and Sebastian) journey towards London began only at 16:45. After being reunited in Hong Kong the arrival in Sydney was scheduled for 06:45 AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time). However, dense fog forced the plane to make a refueling stop in Brisbane before everyone could enter Australian ground at 11:05 AEST.
At least we had time to watch the beautiful sunrise from the airplane.
Maike met the team after a slightly shorter trip, which took only 15 hours from Los Angeles.
Thanks to the delay we could check in to our first apartment right away. Since we are 11 team members plus Maike as a member of the Executive Committee and Jessica as a member of the Organization Committee, one apartment is not enough anymore. Thus, we rented an additional small house that now serves as our base camp. Before we could move into the base camp, we first went to lunch together.
Of course we are not in Australia every day, so while most of the team had a quiet evening and went to bed early, Jan, Jonas and Sebastian went on a small hike to the Sydney opera. They even got to see fireworks!
After a joint breakfast in our base camp this morning, we are now assembling our robots and are getting the software ready for the competition. The day after tomorrow we will then be able to set up in the competition hall for the first time.
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.
Like last year we successfully represented our department at the university day (an open day of the university) and tried to enthuse pupil for robotic. Some team members met way too early for a student at 7:45 AM to send robots, the soccer field and our infrastructure on the long journey from the Informatikum to the department of Chemistry. At 9 AM on time other team members received the hardware and started to set everything up while the first visitors were waiting curiously. After everything was set, the robots started walking lively over the field and caught everyones attention when they kicked the ball. Sometimes they unfortunately hit the goal instead, because from the robots point of view the yellow goal looked pretty similar to the orange ball under the given lighting conditions. Additionally we brought some AIBOs (Artificial Intelligence roBOts, dog shaped robot build by Sony for entertainment), which can play with a ball as well as a little bone and react to cuddling and commands. Like last year there was the opportunity for visitors to control a robot manually and play soccer against the AI. We also had Paro, a therapy robot shaped as a baby seal which loves to be pet, with us. We also presented our new robot platform even though it still comes disassembled.
Overall it was a good chance for us to hunt and fix some bugs in our software and get an overview of our hardware condition (especially of the motors). Primarily we answered many curious questions of potential future students. We hope we could inspire them or at least arouse their interest in Computer Science.
Now it is set: We were kicked out by the runner-ups of this world championships! The Bold Hearts lost their final match with 2:3 agains CIT Brains. Congratualations again to the Bold Hearts, we cheered for them during all matches after the intermediate round. The other game that we lost during this competition was against team Eros which made it to the fourth place today. So we had really bad luck in the drawing this time and leaving the tournament that early is not at all a shame.
We spend the last regular competition day with watching the final games, recording some test pictures on the field and tidying up our table. In the evening we first went to the award ceremony and then to the banquet. The latter was a bit chaotic and not even the salad appeared to be vegetarian, but we had great fun and used the time talking to other teams. Tomorrow the symposium will take place and it is the first time we will participate. We are really looking forward to a last day of serious RoboCup discussions.
Another thing that was confirmed today and that we do not want to hold back is the venue for next year: RoboCup 2015 will take place in Hefei, China! And in 2016 the RoboCup will come to Germany again as the Trustees accepted the application of Leipzig. We are pleased about both decisions 🙂
At the World Cup, there are often demo matches with mixed teams arranged. We united with the Bold Hearts to play against the team Rhoban Football Club from France. We set a goalkeeper, a defender and a fielder, the Bold Hearts set two additional fielders. The french team placed only three robots. The match startet with an excellent kick-off
by Tamara from our team, which rolled in front of the opposite goal. In the following it appeared that the communication between robots from different teams isn’t perfect by now. There were not only arrangement problems between the three fielders but also with the goalkeeper. The former made all three field players fight for the ball against each other, the second made our robots play on their own goal. In the end Rhoban Football Club won with 2:3 with two out of three goals against us were shot by our own robots, the third one was prepared by them. To execute our goalkeeper we have to say that one goal was shot behind his back so he had no chance to defend it.
The match was not only a great fun for the teams but also for the audience. It appeared that a lot work is still necessary in the field of common team communication to play in serious mixed teams. We will use the reamining time here in Brazil to continue developing an architecture for that together with other teams.
Next our Technical Challenge will take place. We will participate in the synthetic turf challenge (which was suggested by our team last year). In this challenge our robot needs to cross a synthetic turf as quickly as possible. In addition we will try the throw-in challenge. The new hands which were originally developed for the new GOAL robot, proved to be not optimal for the small Darwins, but we tried our best to teach Wheatly throwing. Now he just needs to give proof of that during the technical challenge!
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.
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.
During the short stay here in Brazil we already saw some exotic animals.
The first animals which we found and which were unknown to us were slugs. All over the beach slugs can be found, creeping lively on the sand. The moment Judith wanted to take a closer look at one of them, an agitated Brazilian woman came to her: “Don’t touch… Dangerous!”
After we returned to the hotel we checked what slugs we found:
It is an African periwinkle, which was imported for farming and is declared as delicacy. However, they started to proliferate in the wild, where they can transfer for example meningitis by parasites. We will better leave them alone.
Unfortunately the other animals could just be watched from our window. A family of lemures was climbing on the palm tree in front of the hotel window. The small monkeys with a body tail proportion of 1:1 were really lively and difficult to watch under the palm leaves. You can decide yourself how cute they are while watching the pictures 😉