Five years ago, humanoid hobby robots didn't really exist. When Kondo put the KHR-1 kit on the market, a little over two years ago, it was breaking new ground, and taking a huge business for a small company. Back then, it wasn't unusual for hobby servo bipeds to spend most of their limited operating time just falling down and trying to get back up.
In just a few short years the progress has been amazing. The hobby class humanoid robots still fall down sometimes, but now they have actually reached a level that makes it easy to believe that realistic robot athlete performance may be possible before the end of this decade. We got a quick glimpse of what the future may hold at the KondoCup Robot Soccer competition in Tokyo about a week ago (see video below).
The First KondoCup Robot Soccer event was held in conjunction with the annual AKIBA Robot Festival staged each Fall in the Akihabara district of Tokyo. The soccer matches are scaled down versions of their human counterparts, and were divided into two classifications. The primary requirement for the "Kondo" classification was that the robot teams had to be comprised of KHR-1 and/or KHR-2HV robots marketed by Kondo. For the "Open" classification, the teams could use custom designed robots as long as the key components - like servos and controller boards - were marketed by Kondo.
Our earlier post highlighted the Open classification matches, which featured a wide range of designs and builder skill levels. In contrast, for the "Kondo" classification matches, all the robot designs are basically the same - either KHR-1 or KHR-2HV. From a pure design perspective, it was a much more level playing field. As a result, strategy, tactics, and team coordination played more obvious role in the overall tone of the matches.
We've also noticed a huge improvement in the robots ability to play the game. When the first ROBO-ONE Battle Ball (subsequently renamed Rumble Ball) match took place during this summer's ROBO-ONE Special competition, the teams acted more like individual players that just happened to be wearing the same uniforms. By September, when another set of matches took place at ROBO-ONE 10, the teams started to show some early indications of teamwork and rudimentary strategy.
In preparation for the KondoCup event, several of the teams made a special effort to get together and have regular practice sessions. The new Kondo RoboSpot facility in Akihabara has rapidly become the practice venue of choice, to the point that they have added regular practice days to their monthly calendar.
AKIBA Robot Festival (Video)
Kondo RoboSpot (Japanese)