I Feel The Need For Speed

I made it to the "The 25th All Japan Micromouse Contest" yesterday and watched a lot of the competitions. I'll write more about it over the next few days after I have a chance to digest everything I learned and go through all the photos and videos. One MAJOR thing I learned came from the difference in design approaches between the competitors. The differences weren't minor - they were absolutely huge.For example, most of the entries seem to look at corners as a serial process. They get to a corner, hesitate for a moment while they process it, make a 90% turn, then move forward. If it's a compound turn - say a right immediately followed by a left, they do the sequence twice.

But a few entries don't seem to hesitate at all. The appear to have done some pre-processing of the cells, so they move through the turns very smoothly without any hesitation.

Then there are the extreme cases - those entries that not only move smoothly, but actually move on the diagonal through compound turns just like a car rally racer or a champion figure skater. Their speed is really amazing. In the preliminaries on Saturday the best entries were completing the maze right around the 7 second mark, with some coming in under that.

Here's a frame grab sequence of one of the best entries. This was taken at 30 fps, and the 12 frames below are sequential with no gaps. This particular mouse had six wheels - three on each side. The two front and two rear wheels were steerable enabling the mouse to make quick sideways moves, so it zipped through each turn on the diagonal and never came close to touching any walls. It was also extremely fast during earlier runs when it was doing the initial maze exploration. It never touched a wall and always seemed to be centered. Take a close look at how the manuvers through the turns.


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