The 7th ROBO-ONE J competition was held August 5, 2006 in Kawasaki, Japan. The 'J' events focus on a class of humanoid robots that are typically a little smaller but often no less powerful than the robots that compete in the main ROBO-ONE competitions.
The ROBO-ONE J competitions attract a wide range of robot hobbyists including some of the top champions that have also built J-class robots, families with young children, university teams, and beginning robot hobbyists that have modified KHR-1 or Robonova-1 type robot kits.
This summer's competition drew over 70 entries, which may be a new record. It's becoming difficult to stage the ROBO-ONE J event in just a single day, and this time, although the organization was excellent, it ran over schedule by quite a bit due to the sheer number of competitors entered.
This poses some problems for the ROBO-ONE organizing committee since participation in ROBO-ONE events here in Japan is growing much faster than they ever imagined. There is some discussion about setting regional competitions, which will require some rule revisions. We will probably see some big changes in both the number of entries and the overall structure by early next year.
Each entry is assigned a number and provided with workspace in the pit area. For the ROBO-ONE J 7 event, the pit area was on the 4th floor. Unlike RoboGames in the US, access to the pit area is restricted to participants, staff, officials, and the press. However, we did see some 'robo-groupies' in the 4th floor lobby peering through the pit area windows trying to catch a glimpse of their favorite robots.
All the competitors have to present their robots for inspection to make sure that they meet the competition regulations. The entries are weighed, measured, and photographed before they are allowed to compete.
One critical measurement is the leg length. It's used to calculate the ratios applied to the foot sole size. Sometimes just a fraction of an inch can make the difference between meeting or failing the specification check, so experienced participants always build in a small safety factor. It would be heartbreaking to be disqualified during the registration after spending six months of hard work and preparation.
ROBO-ONE is much more than just battling robots. It's primary objective is to promote the enjoyment of robots and robot entertainment. In addition to technical performance, a lot of emphasis is placed on style and design. Some of the entries go all out to create some really amazing and often surprising robots. Notice in the photo above that this robot is equipped with an extra servo and multi-bar linkage that allows it to spread it's Gundam style wings on command.
One of the really neat aspects of the ROBO-ONE J events is that they actively encourage family participation. Family teams receive special mention and kudos during the competition, and there are provisions for the judges to give family teams an additional 50 point handicap in the scoring.
The competitions are also a great opportunity for the community to get together, chat, and share information. At this particular event we got a few sneak previews of early robot designs that will probably be making their debut at the ROBO-ONE 10 competition in September.
No electronics or body shells yet, but this early prototype robot created by Nakamura-san from Himeji Softworks is already showing off its personality.
The competitions can be extremely intense. The organizers provided a large screen monitor in the pit area so that the participants could follow the action real time while they prepared. But most of them seemed totally focused on their robots trying to make last minute adjustments and repairs.
Of course, most players enter the competition because they absolutely love the sport and the community. But there is also some pretty serious prize money, bragging rights, trophies, and awards at stake. The Championship prize includes a huge trophy, official certificate, plus 500,000 yen (about USD$4,500). There are numerous other prizes including special awards from many of the ROBO-ONE sponsors.
Since ROBO-ONE is a sponsor supported event, there are always great demonstrations put on to show off the latest products. At this event there were sponsors booths displaying the KHR-2HV (Kondo), MANOI (Kyosho), and even an extensive display by the Japanese Bioloid distributor. We were kind of surprised, and disappointed, that Hitec, who is also a ROBO-ONE sponsor, didn't have an exhibit and didn't bother to show up to hand out their prize to the winner.
This photo really doesn't do justice to all the intense work and love that went into creating this robot. It was really a work of art. We'd love the opportunity to do a special feature focused on how this robot was created.
Upstairs in the pits, just minutes before the competition kicked off in front of a large audience and major network television coverage downstairs.
The first part of the competition consists of timed 2 minute demonstrations by each of the entrants. They have to show off, and explain their robots features to a panel of expert judges without skipping a beat. It's not unusual for the judges to ask really probing questions. Only the top scoring robots get to come back to do battle in the ring.
Some of the competitors really get into what we can only categorize as 'samurai robots'. While they are certainly interesting and often novel, they don't usually capture high scores and rarely make it into the final competitions. Perhaps we need a 'cosp lay' category of robot competition.
In Part 2 of this report we'll discuss the head to head competitions in the ring and include more event background and photos.