A team of University of Manitoba computer scientists is beaming after their 1.8 by 2.5 cm miniature robots – the world's smallest – won third place for their demonstrations in two separate events at RoboCup 2007 Atlanta, the world’s largest robotics competition.
“We’re pretty happy about it,” says John Anderson, Department of Computer Science at the University of Manitoba. “We saw a lot of innovative applications using these robots, and the students learned a lot from others all over the world, and got a lot of good comments about their work.”
Dr. Anderson, Prof. Jacky Baltes and Faculty of Science students Barrett Ens and Michal de Denus of autonomous agents laboratory, a research lab in the department, are returning from a week and a half in Atlanta where their microbots, including humanoid robots, competed in several categories and leagues. The third-place win came from the microbots.
“We won the competition because we scored well in two of the events, which were applications using the robots,” Anderson explains. “We developed a robotic version of Pac-Man with the Pac-Man and ghost controlled by the robots, and they’d negotiate the virtual world while rolling around on the screen. We also developed software for controlling and working with the robots, and an educational process for using them in undergraduate education.”
The third event in the league was two-on-two soccer, and while the team had an excellent striker, there were problems with their goaltender.
“We didn’t make the finals in our playoff pool in soccer,”, Anderson explained, “but we were still pleased, because most of the time we were playing two- on-two with only one robot, and still managed some draws.”
Each mini robot is powered by a rechargeable watch battery, controlled by infrared signal and can move at speeds of up to 5 cm per second. The mini robots belonging to the University of Manitoba team were donated by their developers, the Citizen Watch Company.
It is hoped one day knowledge gained from robotic research and at the annual RoboCup competitions may be applied at the macro level. Physical visualization scenarios such as the one Anderson and his team have mastered may ultimately help in the simulation of traffic and rescue operations in urban centres in the event of a large scale disaster.
It is estimated 1,700 robot researchers from approximately 35 countries participated at the 11th RoboCup International Competitions and Conferences.
For more information go to http://aalab.cs.umanitoba.ca/