The Japanese are very serious about robotics, and follow the rules strictly when it comes to important competitions. Still, they have a wry sense of humor that pops up in some of the most unexpected ways.
For example, here is the official maze used for the 2010 Half-size Micromouse Contest Finals at Tsukuba last month:
At first glance it may look like a standard, run of the mill maze, but give it some closer inspection and you're bound to notice a few hidden figures or messages. What can you find lurking in the maze, or at least in the pattern of maze walls?
The official times turned in by the top micromouse robots were quite surprising. Although the robots themselves are half the size of their classic counterparts, and the number of squares in the maze has approximately doubled, the leading robots were able to clock total times that were extremely close to full size robots running the original maze configuration.
The top three finishers turned in exceptional times. Excel:Mini-2 (Khiew Tzong Yong) had the fastest run at 05:513 seconds. In second place, Ng Beng Kiat's Ning4.1 robot ran the maze in 06:865 seconds. And, the odds-on favorite to win the match, EggTorte, designed by Kato-san, finished in 08:373 seconds putting it in third place.