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Interview with Marek Šuppa: insights into RoboCupJunior


robocupjunior soccer match in actionA RoboCupJunior soccer match in motion.

In July this 12 months, 2500 individuals congregated in Bordeaux for RoboCup2023. The competitors contains quite a few leagues, and amongst them is RoboCupJunior, which is designed to introduce RoboCup to high school kids, with the main target being on schooling. There are three sub-leagues: Soccer, Rescue and OnStage.

Marek Šuppa serves on the Government Committee for RoboCupJunior, and he informed us in regards to the competitors this 12 months and the newest developments within the Soccer league.

What’s your position in RoboCupJunior and the way lengthy have you ever been concerned with this league?

I began with RoboCupJunior fairly some time in the past: my first worldwide competitors was in 2009 in Graz, the place I used to be fortunate sufficient to compete in Soccer for the primary time. Our group didn’t do all that properly in that occasion however RoboCup made a deep impression and so I stayed round: first as a competitor and later to assist organise the RoboCupJunior Soccer league. Proper now I’m serving as a part of the RoboCupJunior Execs who’re accountable for the organisation of RoboCupJunior as a complete.

How was the occasion this 12 months? What have been among the highlights?

I suppose this 12 months’s theme or slogan, if we have been to offer it one, can be “again to regular”, or one thing like that. Though RoboCup 2022 already befell in-person in Thailand final 12 months after two years of a pandemic pause, it was in a quite restricted capability, as COVID-19 nonetheless affected fairly a couple of areas. It was nice to see that the RoboCup group was capable of persevere and even thrive all through the pandemic, and that RoboCup 2023 was as soon as once more an occasion the place 1000’s of robots and roboticists meet.

It could even be tough to do that query justice with out thanking the native French organisers. They have been truly able to organise the occasion in 2020 however it acquired cancelled because of COVID-19. However they didn’t quit on the concept and managed to place collectively an superior occasion this 12 months, for which we’re very grateful.

robots used for robocupjuniorExamples of the robots utilized by the RoboCupJunior Soccer groups.

Turning to RoboCupJunior Soccer particularly, might you discuss in regards to the mission of the league and the way you, as organisers, go about realising that mission?

The mission of RoboCupJunior consists of two competing aims: on one hand, it must be a problem that’s approachable, fascinating and related for (largely) highschool college students and on the identical time it must be intently associated to the RoboCup “Main” challenges, that are tackled by college college students and their mentors. We’re therefore repeatedly attempting to each make it extra compelling and fascinating for the scholars and on the identical time guarantee it’s technical sufficient to assist them develop in direction of the RoboCup “Main” challenges.

One of many methods we do that’s by introducing what we name “SuperTeam” challenges, by which groups from respective international locations type a so-called “SuperTeam” and compete in opposition to one other “SuperTeam” as if these have been distinct groups. In RoboCupJunior Soccer the “SuperTeams” are composed of 4 to 5 groups they usually compete on a subject that’s six instances bigger than the “normal” fields which can be used for the person video games. Whereas within the particular person matches every group can play with two robots at most (leading to a 2v2 sport) in a SuperTeam match every SuperTeam fields 5 robots, that means there are 10 robots that play on the SuperTeam subject throughout a SuperTeam match. The setup is similar to the Division B of the Small Dimension League of RoboCup “Main”.

The SuperTeam video games have existed in RoboCupJunior Soccer since 2013, so for fairly some time, and the suggestions we acquired on them was overwhelmingly optimistic: it was loads of enjoyable for each the individuals in addition to the spectators. However in comparison with the Small Dimension League video games there have been nonetheless two noticeable variations: the robots didn’t have a approach of speaking with each other and moreover, the referees didn’t have a approach of speaking with the robots. The consequence was that not solely was there little coordination amongst robots of the identical SuperTeam, at any time when the sport wanted to be stopped, the referees needed to bodily run after the robots on the sphere to catch them and do a kickoff after a aim was scored. Though hilarious, it’s removed from how we’d think about the SuperTeam video games to look.

The RoboCupJunior Soccer Normal Communication Modules intention to do each. The module itself is a small system that’s hooked up to every robotic on the SuperTeam subject. These units are all related through Bluetooth to a single smartphone, by way of which the referee can ship instructions to all robots on the sphere. The units themselves additionally help direct message trade between robots on a single SuperTeam, that means the groups don’t have to speculate into determining methods to talk with the opposite robots however could make use of a standard platform. The units, in addition to their firmware, are open supply, that means not solely that everybody can construct their very own Normal Communication Module in the event that they’d like but in addition that the group can take part in its growth, which makes it an fascinating addition to RoboCupJunior Soccer.

two teams setting up their robotsRoboCupJunior Soccer groups preparing for the competitors.

How did this new module work out within the competitors? Did you see an enchancment in expertise for the groups and organisers?

On this first large public take a look at we centered on exploring how (and whether or not) these modules can enhance the gameplay – particularly the “chasing robots at kickoff”. Though we’ve executed “lab experiments” prior to now and had some empirical proof that it ought to work quite properly, this was the primary time we tried it in an actual competitors.

All in all, I’d say that it was a really optimistic experiment. The modules themselves did work fairly properly and for a few of us, who occurred to have expertise with “robotic chasing” talked about above, it was form of a magical feeling to see the robots cease proper on the principle referee’s whistle.

We additionally discovered potential areas for enchancment sooner or later. The modules themselves don’t have an influence supply of their very own and have been powered by the robots themselves. We didn’t assume this is able to be an issue however within the “actual world” take a look at it transpired that the voltage ranges the robots are able to offering fluctuates considerably – as an example when the robotic decides to aggressively speed up – which in flip means among the modules disconnect when the voltage is lowered considerably. Nevertheless, it ended up being a pleasant lesson for everybody concerned, one which we will actually be taught from after we design the following iterations.


The livestream from Day 4 of RoboCupJunior Soccer 2023. This stream contains the SuperTeam finals and the technical challenges. You may also view the livestream of the semifinals and finals from day three right here.

May you inform us in regards to the emergence of deep-learning fashions within the RoboCupJunior leagues?

That is one thing we began to look at in recent times which stunned us organisers, to some extent. In our day-to-day jobs (that’s, when we’re not organising RoboCup), many people, the organisers, work in areas associated to robotics, pc science, and engineering typically – with a few of us additionally doing analysis in synthetic intelligence and machine studying. And whereas we all the time thought that it might be nice to see extra of the cutting-edge analysis being utilized at RoboCupJunior, we all the time dismissed it as one thing too superior and/or tough to arrange for the highschool college students that comprise nearly all of RoboCupJunior college students.

Nicely, to our nice shock, among the extra superior groups have began to utilise strategies and applied sciences which can be very near the present state-of-the-art in numerous areas, significantly pc imaginative and prescient and deep studying. A great instance can be object detectors (normally primarily based on the YOLO structure), which at the moment are used throughout all three Junior leagues: in OnStage to detect numerous props, robots and people who carry out on the stage collectively, in Rescue to detect the victims the robots are rescuing and in Soccer to detect the ball, the targets, and the opponents. And whereas the individuals usually used an off-the-shelf implementations, they nonetheless wanted to do all of the steps vital for a profitable deployment of this know-how: collect a dataset, finetune the deep-learning mannequin and deploy it on their robots – all of which is way from trivial and could be very near how these applied sciences get utilized in each analysis and business.

Though we now have seen solely the extra superior groups use deep-learning fashions at RoboCupJunior, we anticipate that sooner or later we are going to see it turn out to be rather more prevalent, particularly because the know-how and the tooling round it turns into extra mature and strong. It does present, nonetheless, that regardless of their age, the RoboCupJunior college students are very near cutting-edge analysis and state-of-the-art applied sciences.

Two teams ready to start - robots on the fieldMotion from RoboCupJunior Soccer 2023.

How can individuals get entangled in RCJ (both as a participant or an organiser?)

An excellent query!

The most effective place to start out can be the RoboCupJunior web site the place one can discover many fascinating particulars about RoboCupJunior, the respective leagues (corresponding to Soccer, Rescue and OnStage), and the related regional representatives who organise regional occasions. Getting in contact with a regional consultant is by far the simplest approach of getting began with RoboCup Junior.

Moreover, I can actually suggest the RoboCupJunior discussion board, the place many RoboCupJunior individuals, previous and current, in addition to the organisers, talk about many associated subjects within the open. The group could be very newbie pleasant, so if RoboCupJunior sounds fascinating, don’t hesitate to cease by and say hello!

About Marek Šuppa

Marek Suppa

Marek stumbled upon AI as a teen when constructing soccer-playing robots and rapidly realised he isn’t sensible sufficient to do all of the programming by himself. Since then, he’s been determining methods to make machines be taught by themselves, significantly from textual content and pictures. He at present serves because the Principal Knowledge Scientist at Slido (a part of Cisco), enhancing the way in which conferences are run world wide. Staying true to his roots, he tries to supply others with an opportunity to have an analogous expertise by organising the RoboCupJunior competitors as a part of the Government Committee.




AIhub
is a non-profit devoted to connecting the AI group to the general public by offering free, high-quality data in AI.

AIhub
is a non-profit devoted to connecting the AI group to the general public by offering free, high-quality data in AI.


Lucy Smith
is Managing Editor for AIhub.

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