RoboCup 2011 wrapped up earlier this month, and now you can watch a great compilation video of Team NimbRo (University of Bonn, Germany) winning the @Home portion of the competition. The @Home League was added in 2006 with the purpose of developing practical service applications for household robots, and Team NimbRo has been steadily climbing their way to the top since 2009. Robots in this competition are put to a series of tests in a household-like environment including a kitchen and living room, and in the future other domains will be introduced as well.
Human participants must control the robots only through voice commands and gestures, so that the robots will be useful to just about anyone. The robots have to recognize people, follow them, fetch specific items without knowing their exact location, and more. During the “following” task for example, other people may walk between the robot and its target to try and throw it off, all in the name of testing the robustness of their artificial intelligence algorithms.
Thing get considerably more complex than that as you’ll see in the video below. In particular, it is quite impressive to see NimbRo’s robot finding and grabbing a milk bottle, twisting off its top, and pouring it over a bowl of cereal. It then chucks the bottle into a recycling bin and takes a spoon to the bowl. Considering you don’t see that sort of intelligence and capability in robots with millions of dollars of R&D behind them, to say it is impressive may be an understatement. Of course, not all robots are made equal, and that’s why competitions like RoboCup @Home will help sort out the good from the bad.
Team NimbRo also took first place in the humanoid soccer league’s TeenSize competition (that’s them on the left in the photo up above). Currently the @Home robots move around on wheels, but one can easily see a time in the near future when bipedal robots from the AdultSize humanoid league will serve double duty as @Home platforms, too. Things will only get better!