In the early ROBO-ONE competitions the first day was entirely devoted to 2 minute autonomous demonstrations where each builder's robot had to perform, and be scored by a panel of expert judges. The competition was intense and the pressure extreme. There could easily be as many as 100 humanoid robots lined up to try and impress the judges enough so that they could grab one of the 32 slots to return the next day and battle in the ring.
Honestly, the autonomous demonstrations were always the high point of the ROBO-ONE competitions for me. It separated the men from the boys, and it really highlighted a lot of unique design and creative talent. In some ways it was more interesting than the kung-fu style battles that have made ROBO-ONE famous world-wide.
Unfortunately staging that type of event required a large number of dedicated staff and volunteers. Typically the major robot related companies, including some of the software and media creators, would provide staff members to assist in the logistics, judging, support, and other duties. But in these tough economic times the format had to be changed.
Starting with the pre-qualifying event held during the 3rd ROBO-ONE Humanoid Helper Project competition last December, the format was simplified tremendously, but still forces competitors to demonstrate that their design is worthy and capable of performing. The new qualifying test is simple. Just beat the clock, and other robots, at running down a long, straight course.
It's actually more difficult than you would guess. The robots have to run as fast as they can, avoid running or falling off the course, while trying to keep their path as straight as possible. Here's how some of them faired: