ROBO-ONE Special: Eagle Competition Report (Video)

We're sure that there are some people that might disagree with us, but we think that the ROBO-ONE Eagle competition has to be the ultimate test of a humanoid robot. Even the top ROBO-ONE robots sometimes have great difficulty completing the whole course within the 4 minute time limit. And, each time the event has been staged the ROBO-ONE committee tries to make it tougher and tougher.

There were 14 robots entered in the Eagle competition last Sunday in Kawasaki, and although they all made valiant attempts, only two of them made it to the uneven platform obstacle towards the end of the course, and only one managed to complete the whole course. 

As we mentioned in previous posts, the Eagle course is grueling. First the robots have to work their way across a long horizontal bar without having their feet touch the ground.

The robot builders developed some really surprising approaches to deal with the bar. Although everyone thought that this obstacle might turn out to be the most difficult, almost all of them managed to complete it.

Once they clear the bar, then they drop down onto a foam pad, stand up, and proceed to the next challenge - a rapidly spinning turntable. The foam pad turned out to be a special obstacle for a few of the robots and caused them to loose their balance, and some precious time.

The turntable, which was set to turn at a much faster rate than in previous Eagle competitions, presented a major problem for many of the robots, especially since there was very little clearance to the side of the turntable. Robots would lose their balance and fall down only to tumble off the edge of the stage and have to restart their attempt from the entry point of that stage.

The next obstacle was a set of hinged doors, kind of like the type you might see in an old western movie as the doorway to a bar or saloon. While this might not seem like a major obstacle, it did manage to slow down several of the robots as they tried to negotiate the narrow clearance behind the doors.

Next the robots had to negotiate their way across a long gangway with a 90 degree turn. Some of their strategies where really amazing. For example, Maeda-san equipped OmniZero (the red/orange robot in the video below) with a custom made set of foot sensors. This effectively turned the robot into a humanoid line follower robot and worked extremely well.

Assuming that they made it this far, and most of them didn't, the next challenge was to climb a flight of stairs. Since the stair climb obstacle has been a part of the ROBO-ONE Special competitions since the beginning, we really didn't expect the robots to have much trouble with it. Unfortunately most of them had already lost so much time that they seemed to be in too much of a hurry to negotiate the stairs and frequently missed a step or lost their balance.

One real heart breaker was OmniZero. In addition to his custom line follower mods, Maeda had also equipped OmniZero with some special foot pads that enabled it to walk up the stairs two at a time with the front pads on a foot touching one step while the back pads rested on the previous step. As a result the robot executed a very straight forward, and almost beautiful walk up the stairs. The heartbreaker? It had already run out of time at the bottom of the stairs so its climb didn't count.

At the top of the stairs the robots had to negotiate an uneven floor which was created in a checkerboard pattern by removing some of the tiles. Balance and strategy were really key to conquering this obstacle, and only one robot - Dynamizer - managed to finish it successfully.

The last major obstacle was a large jump downward to the ground. After that the robot had to stand up on the Goal area to stop the clock.

Dynamizer, created by Sugiura-san and programmed by Sugiura Brothers, aced every single obstacle on the course, though it did take a few attempts at the turntable before it could successfully transit. The winning time was 2 minutes 24.20 seconds.

Here's what the Eagle competition looked like on Sunday:


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