Third Place for ToBI at the RoboCup World Championship

Bielefeld service robot successful in the household service league

Service robot ToBI came in third place at the RoboCup World Championship held in Hefei, China from 19–22 July 2015. From the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC), ToBI proved himself in a variety of different tests against his robotic opponents. A total of 17 teams participated in the RoboCup@Home-Liga (household service league) of the World Championship. The Homer team from the University of Koblenz took first placed and the Chinese team WrightEagle from the University of Hefei came in second. The World Championship is the largest robotic event in the world.

ToBI and the CITEC team won third place in the household service league of the RoboCup World Championship competition. Photo: Bielefeld University/CITEC. The demands placed on robots vary from task to task, and the referee awards points for the different skills. In the finale, ToBI cooperated with two other mini robots (AmiRo) in a household environment to look after children and play a block stacking game with them. The small “AmiRo” robots were used as flexible, moveable sensors that could be placed in order to better keep an eye on the apartment and react to situations. “The demonstration went very well in parts and was given third place by the internal league jury. The external jury even put us in second place,” says Dr. Sven Wachmuth, one of the team leaders. After the preliminary and intermediate rounds, ToBI was in fourth place. But after its performance in the finale, ToBI managed to climb back up to third place. “The team gave it their all to showcase the robot.  Everyone really came together as a team, with some running tests into the middle of the night,” says Dr. Sven Wachsmuth. “Everyone is happy that in the end, we were still able to come in third place even after some of the individual tasks throughout the competition did not work due to technical problems.”

“Normally we conduct our research and development in sterile and controlled laboratories. By taking part in the RoboCup@Home league, it is possible to test our technical developments under real-life conditions and to observe how robots behave in an unfamiliar environment,” explains CITEC researcher Wachsmuth. This entails various challenges for the robot and the team. “The different leagues were again housed in one large exhibition hall. For ToBI, this meant dealing with the challenge of very loud background noise, which makes it hard for the robot to understand what is said,” explains Wachsmuth. “Another challenge was the many new tests demanding additional skills.” For example, ToBI had to recognize situations and actions, distinguish women and men, determine who spoke to him, or even describe and grasp a pill container that was previously unfamiliar to the robot.

ToBI is named after his team, the “Team of Bielefeld.” The service robot is based on the prototype “Biron,” which stands for “Bielefeld Robot Companion.” In order to measure up to the competition, CITEC researchers are constantly working on further developing the robot and adding new abilities and components for each competition. Currently, ToBI is equipped with a grasping arm. It also has two deep sensors, color cameras, and lasers for spatial orientation.

The Bielefeld team consisted of a total of 13 members. Dr. Sven Wachsmuth and Sebastian Meyer zu Borgsen were the team leaders. Additional members of the scientific staff included Dr. Leon Ziegler (Applied Computer Science) and Timo Korthals (Cognitronics and Sensor Technology). These four CITEC researchers were supported by Master’s students Günes Minareci, Leroy Rügemer, Jonas Gerlach, Christian Limberg, Svenja Kösters, Kevin Gardeja, Nils Neumann, Marvin Barther, and Hendrik ter Horst.

A total of 17 teams from all over the world qualified for the competition in the household service league. Ten of these teams made it to the second round, and five were allowed to compete in the finale. Bielefeld, Bonn, and Koblenz represented Germany; there were also teams from the Netherlands, Chile, Mexico, China, Japan, Brazil, and Thailand. In addition to the household service league RoboCup@Home, in which ToBI participated, different robots competed in six other areas, including a football game, search and rescue, and logistics.

More information is available online:
https://cit-ec.de/en/robocuphome

The Bielefeld team’s qualification video, with a selection of tasks performed in 2014, can be viewed online on Youtube at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5I1GK4sNT8A