In the last few days, interested teenagers got to try out, what it is like to study computer science at our university. And like the last years, we offered one of the three projects the pupils could choose from. During this week, they did not just get a look at our daily lifes, but instead got to experience hands on, what it takes to make a robot play soccer.
Our new friend Cozmo, a robot produced by Anki, joined us for this years project, and thanks to its intuitive programming environment made it rather easy for the students to solve various problems and to programm and play games with or against Cozmo. Step by step they helped Cozmo to reach his dream goal to become a soccer star player.
In contrast to the last years, this time we tried a different learning concept, developed by a master student at our university. In various tasks the 13 children first learned how to work with the robot and his graphical programming environment, before later going on to use a “real” programming language. The main goal was to make Cozmo shoot a goal on friday.
Even though this was a challenging task, the students quickly recognized how to use Cozmos sensors to find the ball in the camera image, then calculate the position in the real world, to then figure out where he is supposed to move.
Besides working on the project, the pupils were also keen to see our campus, so we showed them around in the labs of TAMS. They got to control a robotic arm with a HoloLense and watch as Trixie searched for interestingly colored objects.
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
Our last day started as chaotically as we already anticipated it to be: 10 minutes before our semifinals-game was supposed to start, the exhibition halls doors were still locked. As the referees and the TC didn’t show up on time aswell, luckily we still had enough time to prepare.
Playing against Rhoban was a challenge, as always, but with our vision working perfectly and optimized walking algorithms we did pretty good. A few minutes before the game was over chaos took over once again: Due to unknown reasons the power was cut and therefor all game events stored in the Gamecontroller were lost. The referees and the TC took some time to deliberate about what to do now and then decided to continue the game anyways.
In the end Rhoban beat us, leaving us on the third place out of eight competitors. The first place goes to MRL-HSL.
After the games were over, we had some time to visit a temple with some members of Rhoban and ZJUDancer, and to show them around on the bazaar. The rest of the day was used to attend the very exciting closing ceremony. After the banquette, where we could once again talk and joke with our – sometimes long known, sometimes new – friends, it was already time to say goodbye.
13 hours of flight later, completely exhausted but very very happy, Hamburg had us back. We won’t have much time to rest on our success, though. The world championship is getting closer and today the lab was as crowded as always again.
Today began as early as the days before. Our first game against MRL-HSL was scheduled for 8:30 AM. Until then we still had to fix some hardware components. As we were working on our code until late in the night, one could see our exhaustion in our faces. Nonetheless we played a good game, which, unfortunately ended in a loss, but proved that our hard work during the last days was a success.
Our robots fell very badly during the game, damaging parts of our hardware beyond repair and causing major problems during our second game. Therefor Frankenbot now inherited Minibots arm aswell, making him more and more a patchwork-beast. Between the other teams, Frankenbot made himself a name as “Killer” or “Terminator” and is well known. Because there is one thing we could prove during the last days: We are very good at not getting tipped over.
In our free time after the games we went out to explore Teheran. We bought lots of food, spices and sweets at the bazaar and visited a mosque nearby.
During our third game the hardware problems lingered. By now everything seems to be working again and we hope, our robots won’t get hurt again tomorrow.
After the games we had some time to talk to the other teams. We introduced our ImageTagger to the other teams, Rhoban held an interesting presentation about decisionmaking processes during goalshots and ZJUDancer and MRL-HSL showed a part of their works aswell.
We are now making our last preparations for our semifinal-game against Rhoban. We are curious to see the outcome.
The first match day is coming to an end. Our enemies being three of the four bestplaced teams in last years world championship, our competition couldn’t be much tighter: We’ve got to face MRL-HSL, Rhoban and ZJUDancer. Especially Rhoban demonstrated clever teamplay and clean goalshots with their three robots and beat all three enemies. The other two teams played very good aswell, leading to many exciting moments. Even though we lost all three of our games today, we made great advances aswell: For the first time since our big hardware modifications we are able to walk long distances again. Our ball recognition works perfectly and huge parts of our behaviour are already functioning normally.
Playing against some of the best teams in our league was a good oportunity for us to learn. The knowledge exchange between the teams and the games provide great insights into new tactics and different gamemoves, many of which we are looking forward to try out. The huge amount of games also provides lots of data for our image tagger under realistic conditions.
The hardware wasn’t working in our favour today, and so Frankenbot happened to lose a leg – just a few minutes before our last game was about to start. Luckily the damage could be repaired quite easily. Unfortunately we needed one spare part, that we couldn’t replace. So we had to remove it from the other Minibot, which means, that we can only use one of them for the rest of the competition. At least we can focus our work on that one now.
We are now working on fixing the behaviour completely and optimizing some parts, in order to get better results in our next games.