CITEC Team Competes for World Champion Title at RoboCup in Japan

Researchers and students competing with robots Tobi and Pepper in the household service league

The Team of Bielefeld from the Cluster of Excellence CITEC is participating with a new robot in this year’s RoboCup robotics world championship, held in Nagoya, Japan. From 27­–30 July 2017, some 200 teams from around the world will come together to compete in five leagues, which have a total of 17 subleagues. The Team of Bielefeld has prepared its new humanoid robot Pepper for this year’s competition, and is also bringing along the robot Tobi, as in previous years. Last year, 2016, was the first time that the Team of Bielefeld won first place in the household service league RoboCup@Home, where service robots show what they can do.

       The Team of Bielefeld is made up of both students and researchers. They programmed the robots Tobi and Pepper for the competition as part of a university course. Photo: CITEC/Bielefeld UniversityAs of this year, the household service league is now divided into three subleagues. The Bielefeld team is competing in the Open Platform League (OPL) against 14 other teams, as well as in the new Social Standard Platform League (SSPL) against six teams. In OPL, teams compete with a robot of their own choosing, and here, the CITEC team chose Tobi for the competition. In the SSPL, teams participate with a robot called Pepper, which is developed by the company Softbanks. Pepper’s strength lies in interacting with humans: the robot can recognize and assess the most important human emotions, and directly react to its environment.

In all subleagues of the household service competition, the robots have to accomplish the same tasks. The competition consists of ten events, in each of which complex instructions are combined with one another (“Go and get a plastic bottle,” “open the curtains,” and “follow me.”). An event, for instance, begins with the robot introducing itself to the audience. Participating robots behave autonomously, meaning that they are not controlled and thus only receive spoken instructions. After team introductions, the robot demonstrates how it recognizes faces, how it greets a person that it knows, and how it accompanies him or her out of the room. To do this, the robot has to recognize obstacles like a sofa or a table. The challenge lies in guiding the person out of the room while at the same time recognizing and navigating around these obstacles.

The Cluster of Excellence CITEC has been participating in RoboCup since 2009. The team has made it into the top ranking on three occasions: first place in 2016, second place in Mexico in 2012, and second place in China in 2015. Members of the Team of Bielefeld are both CITEC researchers and students from the Faculty of Technology.
Preparation for RoboCup is incorporated into a university course, and every year, different students from the course join the team.

The goal of the RoboCup competition is to accelerate the development of affordable and reliable autonomous robots. Applications from the household service league can be used to help develop service robots for domestic use. A unique feature of RoboCup is that after the competition is over, the teams make public how they programmed their robots, thus allowing others to benefit from their progress. The competition is divided into five main leagues. In addition to the household service league, teams compete in soccer, logistics, human rescue, and industrial work leagues for the title of world champion.