A GLIMPSE IN THE PAST
RoboCup is an annual competition, proposed and founded in 1996 by a group of university professors. A year later one of the biggest steps for robotics and AI happened when IBM Deep Blue, managed to defeat the chess world champion, Garry Kasparov on a six-game match. Since the beginning of the 1990s there was an ambition of a team of robots who would win in a match with the elite soccer players. Unfortunately, that vision never came true. In stead of that the Japanese scientists and programmers who worked on this project from the year 1992 set up a whole new robot soccer event, during 1993 named Robot World Cup. Later on, until today RoboCup is the world’s biggest competition about robots. The aim of the competition is to promote robotics and AI research by offering a publicly appealing – but formidable – challenge.
RoboCup has 5 league categories for the different types of robots that take part in the competition.
First of all, the Soccer category, where humanoid robots compete each other has 5 leagues. In those leagues there are humanoid robots playing soccer against each other but unlike humanoid robots outside the Humanoid League the task of perception and world modeling is not simplified by using non-human like range sensors. In addition to soccer competitions technical challenges take place. There is also the possibility of the same robots playing soccer forming an enemy and an ally team, this is the situation in the Standard Platform league, where teams are only using the Softbank Robotics’ NAO. These robots play fully autonomously and each one takes decisions separately from the others, but they still have to play as a team by using communications. There is also the Middle Size and the Small Size leagues where teams of five fully autonomous robots play soccer with a regular size FIFA soccer ball or an orange golf ball. Last but not least is the oldest league, the Simulation League which focus on artificial intelligence and team strategy. Independently moving software players (agents) play soccer on virtual field inside a computer. There are 2 sub-leagues 2D and 3D.
Moving on to the second category the RoboCupRescue. RobocupRescue aims to increase awareness of the challenges involved in search and rescue applications, develop simulators to emulate search and rescue scenarios, develop intelligent agents and robots that are given the capabilities of the main actors in search and rescue scenarios, provide objective evaluation of robotic implementations in representative environments, and promote collaboration between researchers. There are 2 leagues one testing the awareness of the challenges involved in search and rescue applications, provide objective evaluation of robotic implementations in representative environments, and promote collaboration between researchers and the Simulation league which aims to develop simulators that form the infrastructure of the simulation system and emulate realistic phenomena predominant in disasters. Second, it aims to develop intelligent agents and robots that are given the capabilities of the main actors in a disaster response scenario.
The next category which is also a league is RoboCup@Home which aims to develop service and assistive robot technology with high relevance for future personal domestic applications. It is the largest international annual competition for autonomous service robots and is part of the RoboCup initiative. A set of benchmark tests is used to evaluate the robots’ abilities and performance in a realistic non-standardized home environment setting. Focus lies on the following domains but is not limited to: Human – Robot – Interaction and Cooperation, Navigation and Mapping in dynamic environments, Computer Vision and Object Recognition under natural light conditions, Object Manipulation, Adaptive Behaviors, Behavior Integration, Ambient Intelligence, Standardization and System Integration.
The fourth category is the RoboCupIndustrial and it is separated in 2 leagues RoboCup@Work and the Logistics league. The first one, RoboCup@Work is is the newest league in RoboCup, targeting the use of robots in work-related scenarios. RoboCup@Work utilizes proven ideas and concepts from other RoboCup competitions to tackle open research challenges in industrial and service robotics. With the introduction of this league RoboCup opens up to communities researching both classical and innovative robotics scenarios with very high relevance for the robotics industry. Second, the Logistics league is an application driven league inspired by the industrial scenario of a smart factory, where a number of machines provide manufacturing services to refine, assemble, or modify a workpiece eventually resulting in a final product. In this new paradigm, the factory provides a number of production technologies rather than production types. These can then be combined anew for each specific order. The idea is to allow cost effective production even for low volume or high variance products. Such a factory requires a more flexible logistics, where robots are a natural choice. The RCLL provides a testbed and benchmark of a comprehensible and yet meaningful size for such a system. We see the RCLL in a larger context as a central — but by no means exclusive — requirement for modern manufacturing industries. It focuses on research questions about task level planning and scheduling, automation in an industrial production workflow, and multi-robot system integration. It is meant to spawn interest in industry for current robotics research and to provide a benchmarking domain for such applications.
The fifth and final category is the RoboCupJunior project. The projects’ purpose is to introduce RoboCup to primary and secondary school children, as well as undergraduates who do not have the resources to get involved in the senior leagues yet. The focus of the Junior league lies on education. The tournament offers to the participants the chance to take part in international exchange programs and to share the experience of meeting peers from abroad. RoboCupJunior offers several challenges, each emphasizing both cooperative and competitive aspects. For young students, RoboCupJunior provides an exciting introduction to the field of robotics, a new way to develop technical abilities through hands-on experience with electronics, hardware and software, and a highly motivating opportunity to learn about teamwork while sharing technology with friends. In contrast to the one-child-one-computer scenario typically seen today, RoboCupJunior provides a unique opportunity for participants with a variety of interests and strengths to work together as a team to achieve a common goal.