Friday, April 30, 2010

Robots and Robot Competitions

I am part of an Australian team that has entered the MAGIC 2010 competition, Team WAMbot. MAGIC 2010 is an exciting challenge for coordinating multiple autonomous vehicles for mapping, surveillance and tracking tasks. This is sure to prove to be an exciting challenge that will push robots forward in terms of capabilities and reliability. Although many robots can already do similar tasks, I have not seen any demonstration of the interaction of all of these capabilities, reliably for an extended period of time.

A previous challenge that sparked great interest that was also funded by the military were the DARPA Grand Challenge's. However I believe one group has taken onboard an even more monumental challenge, the VisLab's Intercontinental challenge to cross from Rome, Italy to Shanghai, China. VisLab have a unique pure-vision approach (although I doubt they will stick to this for this particular challenge), have been a leader in the autonomous automotive field for years and have done some very impressive work. They are brave enough to walk infront of their vehicles and trust them to swerve out of the way to avoid them.

I believe the VisLab challenge will be a very tough test, unlike previous ground-breaking driving trips, like UniBW's 1000 mile autonomous journey in the 1990's that followed clean Autobahn lane markings, the VisLab's challenge will travel on unreliable roads for a much longer time and need to deal with pedestrians, animals, etc, etc. They do get the slight bonus of being able to use GPS navigation.

The VisLab guys are very friendly and helpful people, so I wish them the best of luck in this challenging and ground-breaking endeavour!

I'll leave you with some interesting Robotics videos:
This blimp seems similar to the Festo blimp, but it is powered by electroactive polymers.

And a robot balancing on a ball, not unlike the BallyBot from our lab.

And VAIL's autonomous parking has made some impact on the web, no idea why, it doesn't seem much more advanced than the autonomous parking we've been seeing for years since the DARPA Urban Challenge. Still, it is neat:

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