A University of Liverpool team swept to victory in Brazil this summer, taking the RoboCup@work world title for the second year running.
The smARTLab (swarms multi-agent robot technologies and learning lab) team, made up of Department of Computer Science PhD students; Daniel Claes, Joscha Fossel and Bastian Broeker, headed out to the 2014 competition in Joao Pessoa, fresh from clinching top spot at the German Open in April.
And they didn’t disappoint, scooping the world title amidst stiff international competition.
Professor in Computer Science, Karl Tuyls leads the smARTLab team. He said: “We have some very smart guys on board. They are just wonderful, skilled engineers and that helps a lot.”
The emphasis of Robocup is on developing artificial intelligence (AI), rather than hardware. All the teams use a Kuka Youbot robot featuring a moving, electronic arm on a flat, wheeled platform. The competition is fought out on the basis of how well the robot assesses and completes tasks using the AI systems developed by each group.
Professor Tuyls said: “Robocup@work is all about the factory of the future. It’s about robots doing complicated stuff in collaboration with humans, like picking up and placing objects autonomously, making things more efficient, and in the longer term doing dangerous work for people.
“In the future, multiple robots will have to collaborate to solve complicated and sometimes dangerous tasks that require multi-robot swarms, rather than one single autonomous robot.
“Our focus is on AI, and engineering these robots so they are capable of making decisions.”
And all the team’s hard work paid off, despite only three members out of a usual seven being able to travel to Brazil. Immediately upon arrival SmARTLab also had to cope with the loss of a wheel, preventing sideways motion.
Fortunately, and in the spirit of sportsmanship, eventual runners-up, b-it-bots team from Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University in Germany, lent out their spare, allowing SmARTLab to compete and take the crown.
Professor Tuyls added: “It’s a fantastic achievement, that really can’t be understated, at a major international tournament.
“In my opinion, we have some of very bright people here in Liverpool. We’ve got people from a theoretical background, but we’ve also people with more of engineering perspective.
“The mix makes for a very strong computer science department we can be proud of.”
smARTLab@work consists of: D. Claes (PhD student), J. Fossel (PhD student), B. Broecker (PhD student), dr. D. Hennes (postdoc ESA/external affiliate), R. Claessens (PhD student), S. Benmendil (intern), R. Williams (PhD student), Professor K. Tuyls
Watch a video of smARTLab’s robot in action here