The 8th annual RoboGames attracts teams from around the world to compete in 60 different events - from dancing androids to fire-breathing combat robots and autonomous cars to soccer playing droids.
The San Francisco Bay Area has long been a rich playground where hard working cogs in the startup machine wrestle valiantly in their cubicles with the coding questions of the ages. 51 weeks out of the year, it's humdrum workday solving the world's technology problems.
And then there's week 52 - RoboGames week...
Speed, precision, control, and memory size turned out to be the key parameters for the 2010 All Japan Robotracer robot competition. The first three parameters weren't a big surprise. The competition rewards designs that push the limits of speed while being able to maneuver the course without error or the slightest drift. The fourth parameter, memory size, was a surprise to many competitors however. This year's Robotracer robot final course included so many features that several of the competitors ran out of feature memory before they could safely complete their runs.
Here's what one of the successful competitors looked like:
Unlike the Micromouse robot competitions, the Robotracer rules specifically disallow the use of any suction mechanism, like venturi fans, that would increase ground contact force and traction.
There have been a lot of attempts over the past 5 years, or so, to design a micromouse robot equipped with a venturi fan. The basic idea is to use the fan's suction to sustain wheel traction at the high speeds achieved by the top robots. Even David Otten from MIT attempted it with very limited success.
Finally at the All Japan Micromouse Robot 2010 competition this November we saw a fan equipped robot turn in competitive speed run times. Although it didn't win the championship, at least not this time around, the Micesweeper robot did capture 4th place with a speed run officially clocked at 4.942 seconds. According the designer's analysis, the robot achieved a speed on the straight runs of 3.0 m/sec, did 90 & 45 degree turns at 1.8 m/sec, made 180 degree u-turns at 1.6 m/sec, and accelerated at 9.8m/ss. Very cool.
Of course you can't rest on your laurels. Now he's tuning up and refining the design.
Fan traction demonstration:
December speed run:
Khiew Tzong Yong winning the 2010 half-sized micromouse final competition with a blazingly fast 5.513 seconds. Listen to the crowd response! They really appreciate his performance.
Ng Beng Kiat's second place speed run in the half-sized micromouse final competition:
Kato's half-sized micromouse robot “EggTorte” doing its initial discovery runs through the maze:
And, his speed runs:
As we reported last month, Kato-san, the amazing micromouse robot designer from Nagoya, won the 31st Micromouse Robot Expert Class competition held at Tsukuba. Unfortunately in the Half-size competition, held earlier the same day, his “EggTorte” robot ran into a few difficulties on some of its runs, and wound up in third place with a time of 8.373 seconds.
Its speed was pretty amazing however, especially considering the tiny robot size and the expanded maze complexity. You may want to go back and take a look at EggTorte close-up to get a feel for all the technology and performance Kato was able to pack into his micro-robot. Here are the robot's speed runs:
Before you ask, the other Half-size robot videos haven't been posted yet. We'll keep a close eye out and post about them as soon as they are available.
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.