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Chapter 66 — Robotics Competitions and Challenges

Daniele Nardi, Jonathan Roberts, Manuela Veloso and Luke Fletcher

This chapter explores the use of competitions to accelerate robotics research and promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. We argue that the field of robotics is particularly well suited to innovation through competitions. Two broad categories of robot competition are used to frame the discussion: human-inspired competitions and task-based challenges. Human-inspired robot competitions, of which the majority are sports contests, quickly move through platform development to focus on problemsolving and test through game play. Taskbased challenges attempt to attract participants by presenting a high aim for a robotic system. The contest can then be tuned, as required, to maintain motivation and ensure that the progress is made. Three case studies of robot competitions are presented, namely robot soccer, the UAV challenge, and the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) grand challenges. The case studies serve to explore from the point of view of organizers and participants, the benefits and limitations of competitions, and what makes a good robot competition.

This chapter ends with some concluding remarks on the natural convergence of humaninspired competitions and task-based challenges in the promotion of STEM education, research, and vocations.

Multirobot teamwork in the CMDragons RoboCup SSL team

Author  Manuela Veloso

Video ID : 387

In this video, we can see the coordination and passing strategy as an example of the play of the RoboCup small-size league (SSL), in this case, the CMDragons team from Veloso and her students, at Carnegie Mellon University. The RoboCup SSL has an overhead camera connected to an offboard computer which plans and commands the robots: The perception, planning, and actuation cycle is fully autonomous.

Chapter 72 — Social Robotics

Cynthia Breazeal, Kerstin Dautenhahn and Takayuki Kanda

This chapter surveys some of the principal research trends in Social Robotics and its application to human–robot interaction (HRI). Social (or Sociable) robots are designed to interact with people in a natural, interpersonal manner – often to achieve positive outcomes in diverse applications such as education, health, quality of life, entertainment, communication, and tasks requiring collaborative teamwork. The long-term goal of creating social robots that are competent and capable partners for people is quite a challenging task. They will need to be able to communicate naturally with people using both verbal and nonverbal signals. They will need to engage us not only on a cognitive level, but on an emotional level as well in order to provide effective social and task-related support to people. They will need a wide range of socialcognitive skills and a theory of other minds to understand human behavior, and to be intuitively understood by people. A deep understanding of human intelligence and behavior across multiple dimensions (i. e., cognitive, affective, physical, social, etc.) is necessary in order to design robots that can successfully play a beneficial role in the daily lives of people. This requires a multidisciplinary approach where the design of social robot technologies and methodologies are informed by robotics, artificial intelligence, psychology, neuroscience, human factors, design, anthropology, and more.

Visual communicative nonverbal behaviors of the Sunflower robot

Author  Kerstin Dautenhahn

Video ID : 219

The video illustrates the experiments as described in Koay et. al (2013). The Sunflower robot, developed by Kheng Lee Koay at the University of Hertfordshire, is a non-humanoid robot, using communicative signals inspired by dog-human interaction. The biological behaviors had been abstracted and translated to the specific robot embodiment. The results show that the robot is able to communicate its intention to a person and encourages the participant to attend to events and locations in a home environment. The work has been part of the of the European project LIREC (

Chapter 76 — Evolutionary Robotics

Stefano Nolfi, Josh Bongard, Phil Husbands and Dario Floreano

Evolutionary Robotics is a method for automatically generating artificial brains and morphologies of autonomous robots. This approach is useful both for investigating the design space of robotic applications and for testing scientific hypotheses of biological mechanisms and processes. In this chapter we provide an overview of methods and results of Evolutionary Robotics with robots of different shapes, dimensions, and operation features. We consider both simulated and physical robots with special consideration to the transfer between the two worlds.

Evolution of visually-guided behaviour on Sussex gantry robot

Author  Phil Husbands

Video ID : 371

Behaviour evolved in the real world on the Sussex gantry robot in 1994. Controllers (evolved neural networks plus visual sampling morphology) are automatically evaluated on the actual robot. The required behaviour is a shape discrimination task: to move to the triangle, while ignoring the rectangle, under very noisy lighting conditions.

Chapter 10 — Redundant Robots

Stefano Chiaverini, Giuseppe Oriolo and Anthony A. Maciejewski

This chapter focuses on redundancy resolution schemes, i. e., the techniques for exploiting the redundant degrees of freedom in the solution of the inverse kinematics problem. This is obviously an issue of major relevance for motion planning and control purposes.

In particular, task-oriented kinematics and the basic methods for its inversion at the velocity (first-order differential) level are first recalled, with a discussion of the main techniques for handling kinematic singularities. Next, different firstorder methods to solve kinematic redundancy are arranged in two main categories, namely those based on the optimization of suitable performance criteria and those relying on the augmentation of the task space. Redundancy resolution methods at the acceleration (second-order differential) level are then considered in order to take into account dynamics issues, e.g., torque minimization. Conditions under which a cyclic task motion results in a cyclic joint motion are also discussed; this is a major issue when a redundant manipulator is used to execute a repetitive task, e.g., in industrial applications. The use of kinematic redundancy for fault tolerance is analyzed in detail. Suggestions for further reading are given in a final section.

FlexIRob - Teaching null-space constraints in physical human-robot interaction

Author  AMARSi Consortium

Video ID : 818

The video presents an approach utilizing the physical interaction capabilities of compliant robots with data-driven and model-free learning in a coherent system in order to make fast reconfiguration of redundant robots feasible. Users with no particular robotics knowledge can perform this task in physical interaction with the compliant robot, for example, to reconfigure a work cell due to changes in the environment. For fast and efficient learning of the respective null-space constraints, a reservoir neural network is employed. It is embedded in the motion controller of the system, hence allowing for execution of arbitrary motions in task space. We describe the training, exploration, and the control architecture of the systems and present an evaluation of the KUKA Light-Weight Robot (LWR). The results show that the learned model solves the redundancy resolution problem under the given constraints with sufficient accuracy and generalizes to generate valid joint-space trajectories even in untrained areas of the workspace.

Chapter 76 — Evolutionary Robotics

Stefano Nolfi, Josh Bongard, Phil Husbands and Dario Floreano

Evolutionary Robotics is a method for automatically generating artificial brains and morphologies of autonomous robots. This approach is useful both for investigating the design space of robotic applications and for testing scientific hypotheses of biological mechanisms and processes. In this chapter we provide an overview of methods and results of Evolutionary Robotics with robots of different shapes, dimensions, and operation features. We consider both simulated and physical robots with special consideration to the transfer between the two worlds.

Evolved walking in octopod

Author  Phil Husbands

Video ID : 372

Evolved-walking behaviors on an octopod robot. Multiple gaits and obstacle avoidance can be observed. The behavior was evolved in a minimal simulation by Nick Jakobi at Sussex University and is successfully transferred to the real world as is evident from the video.

Chapter 24 — Wheeled Robots

Woojin Chung and Karl Iagnemma

The purpose of this chapter is to introduce, analyze, and compare various wheeled mobile robots (WMRs) and to present several realizations and commonly encountered designs. The mobility of WMR is discussed on the basis of the kinematic constraints resulting from the pure rolling conditions at the contact points between the wheels and the ground. Practical robot structures are classified according to the number of wheels, and features are introduced focusing on commonly adopted designs. Omnimobile robot and articulated robots realizations are described. Wheel–terrain interaction models are presented in order to compute forces at the contact interface. Four possible wheel-terrain interaction cases are shown on the basis of relative stiffness of the wheel and terrain. A suspension system is required to move on uneven surfaces. Structures, dynamics, and important features of commonly used suspensions are explained.

An omnidirectional robot with four Swedish wheels

Author  Nexus Automation Limited

Video ID : 328

This video shows a holonomic omnidirectional mobile robot with four Swedish wheels. The wheel enables lateral motion by the use of rotating rollers. Although the structure of each wheel becomes complicated, the driving mechanisms of the wheels become simpler. Another advantage is that the footprint locations remain unchanged during omnidirectional movements.

Chapter 70 — Human-Robot Augmentation

Massimo Bergamasco and Hugh Herr

The development of robotic systems capable of sharing with humans the load of heavy tasks has been one of the primary objectives in robotics research. At present, in order to fulfil such an objective, a strong interest in the robotics community is collected by the so-called wearable robots, a class of robotics systems that are worn and directly controlled by the human operator. Wearable robots, together with powered orthoses that exploit robotic components and control strategies, can represent an immediate resource also for allowing humans to restore manipulation and/or walking functionalities.

The present chapter deals with wearable robotics systems capable of providing different levels of functional and/or operational augmentation to the human beings for specific functions or tasks. Prostheses, powered orthoses, and exoskeletons are described for upper limb, lower limb, and whole body structures. State-of-theart devices together with their functionalities and main components are presented for each class of wearable system. Critical design issues and open research aspects are reported.

L-Exos for upper-limb motor rehabilitation

Author  Massimo Bergamasco

Video ID : 180

The video shows the L-Exos integrated into a virtual environment, which has been specifically developed for the motor rehabilitation of the upper limb.

Chapter 15 — Robot Learning

Jan Peters, Daniel D. Lee, Jens Kober, Duy Nguyen-Tuong, J. Andrew Bagnell and Stefan Schaal

Machine learning offers to robotics a framework and set of tools for the design of sophisticated and hard-to-engineer behaviors; conversely, the challenges of robotic problems provide both inspiration, impact, and validation for developments in robot learning. The relationship between disciplines has sufficient promise to be likened to that between physics and mathematics. In this chapter, we attempt to strengthen the links between the two research communities by providing a survey of work in robot learning for learning control and behavior generation in robots. We highlight both key challenges in robot learning as well as notable successes. We discuss how contributions tamed the complexity of the domain and study the role of algorithms, representations, and prior knowledge in achieving these successes. As a result, a particular focus of our chapter lies on model learning for control and robot reinforcement learning. We demonstrate how machine learning approaches may be profitably applied, and we note throughout open questions and the tremendous potential for future research.

Inverse reinforcement

Author  Pieter Abbeel

Video ID : 353

This video shows a successful example of inverse reinforcement learning for acrobatic helicopter maneuvers. It illustrates apprenticeship learning algorithms, which leverage expert demonstrations to efficiently learn good controllers for tasks as demonstrated by an expert. The experimental results captured here include the first autonomous execution of a wide range of maneuvers and a complete airshow. The controllers perform as well as, and often even better than, the human expert pilot. The video illustrates a solution to the "Curse of Goal Specification" in Sect 15.3.6 Challenges in Robot Reinforcement Learning. Reference: P. Abbeel, A. Coates, A.Y. Ng: Autonomous helicopter aerobatics through apprenticeship learning, Int. J. Robot. Res. 29(13), 1608–1639 (2010)

Chapter 55 — Space Robotics

Kazuya Yoshida, Brian Wilcox, Gerd Hirzinger and Roberto Lampariello

In the space community, any unmanned spacecraft can be called a robotic spacecraft. However, Space Robots are considered to be more capable devices that can facilitate manipulation, assembling, or servicing functions in orbit as assistants to astronauts, or to extend the areas and abilities of exploration on remote planets as surrogates for human explorers.

In this chapter, a concise digest of the historical overview and technical advances of two distinct types of space robotic systems, orbital robots and surface robots, is provided. In particular, Sect. 55.1 describes orbital robots, and Sect. 55.2 describes surface robots. In Sect. 55.3, the mathematical modeling of the dynamics and control using reference equations are discussed. Finally, advanced topics for future space exploration missions are addressed in Sect. 55.4.

DLR GETEX manipulation experiments on ETS-VII

Author  Gerd Hirzinger, Klaus Landzettel

Video ID : 332

This is a video record of the remote control of the first free-flying space robot ETS-VII from the DLR ground control station in Tsukuba, done in close cooperation with Japan’s NASDA (today’s JAXA). The video shows a visual-servoing task in which the robot moves autonomously to a reference position defined by visual markers placed on the experimental task board. In view are the true camera measurements (top left, end-effector camera; top right, side camera), the control room in the ground control station (bottom left), and the robot simulation environment (bottom right), which was used as a predictive simulation tool.

Chapter 65 — Domestic Robotics

Erwin Prassler, Mario E. Munich, Paolo Pirjanian and Kazuhiro Kosuge

When the first edition of this book was published domestic robots were spoken of as a dream that was slowly becoming reality. At that time, in 2008, we looked back on more than twenty years of research and development in domestic robotics, especially in cleaning robotics. Although everybody expected cleaning to be the killer app for domestic robotics in the first half of these twenty years nothing big really happened. About ten years before the first edition of this book appeared, all of a sudden things started moving. Several small, but also some larger enterprises announced that they would soon launch domestic cleaning robots. The robotics community was anxiously awaiting these first cleaning robots and so were consumers. The big burst, however, was yet to come. The price tag of those cleaning robots was far beyond what people were willing to pay for a vacuum cleaner. It took another four years until, in 2002, a small and inexpensive device, which was not even called a cleaning robot, brought the first breakthrough: Roomba. Sales of the Roomba quickly passed the first million robots and increased rapidly. While for the first years after Roomba’s release, the big players remained on the sidelines, possibly to revise their own designs and, in particular their business models and price tags, some other small players followed quickly and came out with their own products. We reported about theses devices and their creators in the first edition. Since then the momentum in the field of domestics robotics has steadily increased. Nowadays most big appliance manufacturers have domestic cleaning robots in their portfolio. We are not only seeing more and more domestic cleaning robots and lawn mowers on the market, but we are also seeing new types of domestic robots, window cleaners, plant watering robots, tele-presence robots, domestic surveillance robots, and robotic sports devices. Some of these new types of domestic robots are still prototypes or concept studies. Others have already crossed the threshold to becoming commercial products.

For the second edition of this chapter, we have decided to not only enumerate the devices that have emerged and survived in the past five years, but also to take a look back at how it all began, contrasting this retrospection with the burst of progress in the past five years in domestic cleaning robotics. We will not describe and discuss in detail every single cleaning robot that has seen the light of the day, but select those that are representative for the evolution of the technology as well as the market. We will also reserve some space for new types of mobile domestic robots, which will be the success stories or failures for the next edition of this chapter. Further we will look into nonmobile domestic robots, also called smart appliances, and examine their fate. Last but not least, we will look at the recent developments in the area of intelligent homes that surround and, at times, also control the mobile domestic robots and smart appliances described in the preceding sections.

Beam's new Palo Alto store lets telepresence robots sell themselves. Literally.

Author  Erwin Prassler

Video ID : 745

Video shows telepresence robot Beam selling itself without any human staff in Suitable Technologies' Palo Alto Beam store.