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In the robotic league

The only participant from India, BITS Pilani, finished fourth at the RoboCup 2013 held in the Netherlands, says Vandana Ramnani.
Hindustan Times | By Vandana Ramnani, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 23, 2013 01:13 PM IST

This isn’t the usual World Cup soccer match where teams from one country play another. This one is special because loud applause replaces wide smiles when the bumbling robot trounces his opponent or stumbles even before the ball has reached the net. The match has its tense moments – the only difference perhaps is that it’s the robot who is nervous.

We’re at the RoboCup 2013 at Eindhoven, Netherlands, where thousands of robots from over 40 countries are competing under different categories. They’re health robots to assist the sick and the aged, rescue robots, home robots – you name it and they’re there.

Next year’s tournament will be held in Brazil and the mission of RoboCup is not only to encourage more students to take up science but also to defeat the human World Cup winners by 2050.

A team of five engineering students from BITS Pilani is here with its invention AcYut to compete in the humanoid league under the teensize category. AcYut which means “the imperishable” is India’s first indigenously developed humanoid robot and also India’s first autonomous humanoid robot. The one competing at RoboCup 2013 is AcYut 5.

AcYut 1 was developed by a team from the same institute way back in 2008. It was 50 cm in height and took part in the Robo games held in the US the same year. It stood sixth at the event.

AcYut 2 was developed in 2009. It was 85cm tall and was semi-autonomous. AcYut 3 was developed in the same year. It had more power, vision and could sense objects. AcYut 4 was the first autonomous version developed in 2011. It came third in the RoboCup held last year in Istanbul. This year AcYut 5, a minor modification over its predecessor also stood third.

The other categories are the kid size which has robots under 70cm and the adult category which is for robots over 120cm tall. Also the humanoid league comes under the soccer league which is the primary aim of the RoboCup Federation ­according to their charter. The @home, rescue and ­simulations leagues were started later to promote robotics in these fields.

A football match setting provides engineering ­students teams from around the world a platform wherein there robotic invention comes ­face-to-face with ‘problems’, test their technology and improve on it further.

The team of BE students from BITS Pilani finished fourth in the competition. The teams which were above them in the rankings were FUBKit (3rd), Team CITBrains from Japan (2nd) and Team Nimbro from Germany (1st). The final was between CITBrains and Nimbro. “In our final (for the third place) the match was closely contested with the final score being 1:0. Our robot managed to score an goal after getting confused in the symmetric environment of the football field which was introduced this year. But all said it was an extremely fruitful RoboCup for us. AcYut’s walking and stability were on par with that of the champions and most of the cognition functions of the robot worked well,” Apoorv Shrivastava, the team leader.

Over the next year, the team intends improving the coordination between the various cognitive functions that the robot has and possibly construct another one and work on coordination between the two agents. “While AcYut is quite stable, we also need to figure out a method by which we are able to regain stability in case of collisions and the like,” he says.

RoboCup enables us to test are algorithms in a non-laboratory environment which is the main reason why we participate in it. It informs us of minor faults in the algorithms that we use which would otherwise be overlooked. Also, it enables sharing of ­information across ­different teams. It enables us to get ­alternative solutions that ­people use to solve ­problems and the merits-demerits of these compared to other ­solutions commonly used, he adds.

All entries to RoboCup are selected by a technical committee (TC) consisting of experts working in related fields. Selection begins in January and results are announced four months later. The TC reviews videos, papers and robot ­specifications while selecting teams that will be allowed to ­compete.

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