by Pete Smith
The Guinness Book of World Records list “RoboGames” as the World’s
largest open robot competition. I don’t know if that is true, but it’s
certainly the largest and most diverse that I have ever attended.
This years’ event was held June
13th through the 17th in San
Francisco, CA. The venue was
the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason, a
beautifully restored former United
States Army facility, right on the shore
of the bay opposite Alcatraz island.
Some of a former inmates friends
are still around!). The piers and large
buildings which had seen major activity
during the Second World and the
Korean Wars would now house a
much more benign but still fiercely
Fort Mason is a brisk walk (or short
drive!) from the hotels and restaurants
of Lombard Street so it is possible to
stay nearby and avoid the slow traffic
in San Francisco’s narrow streets. If you
got to the venue early, there was no
problem in parking and it is also well
served by public transport.
RoboGames covers just about the
whole gamut of Robotic competition,
from Art Robots, through autonomous
“fire fighting” and soccer bots right up
to huge 340 lb combat robots fighting
it out in a steel and polycarbonate
arena. Full details of all the classes
and future events can be found at
Wednesday and Thursday were
principally set up days. The large arena
for the combat robots was being
assembled (Figure 1), the various
sized soccer pitches laid out, and the
competitors going through safety
inspections and testing their robots
(and as usual, some still building).
Teams had traveled from all over
the world, with strong contingents
62 SERVO 09.2007
from Brazil, China, Taiwan, Japan,
Australia, Singapore, and the United
Kingdom, plus smaller numbers from
many other countries. The scene of the
combat pits on Thursday afternoon
(Figure 2) was typical of the activity in
all areas of the Pavilion.
The competitions really got going
on Friday. The big crowd pleaser was —
as usual — the combat robots but
there was plenty of interest in all the
different displays and contests.
The small combat bots (up to
Beetleweights) were fought in a small
(a bit too small perhaps?) separate
arena, while the Hobbyweights ( 12 lbs)
all the way up to the Super
Heavyweights (340 lbs) were in the big
arena (next year, they will have an even
bigger and better one!). Highlights
included Super Heavyweight “The
Judge” hitting the ceiling during a
memorable fight against the Uber-Flipper “Ziggy,” Heavyweight Spinner
“MegaByte” reducing “The Red Baron”
to splinters (Figure 3) during a rumble,
and Middleweight “Sub Zero” throwing
the big spinner “Mortician” to the roof
and disemboweling it at the same time.
There was an almost endless series
of excellent fights with most of the
world’s top bots meeting each other
in titanic clashes. Large crowds filled
the bleachers and overflowed onto
every available vantage point,
especially when the big spinners were
in the arena.
The Brazilian Team RioBotz (www.
riobotz.com.br; Figure 4) did particularly well, taking two first places. Their
enthusiasm and spirit — win or lose —
was outstanding. The sport is rapidly
growing in Brazil and if their current
bots are anything to go by, they will be
the team to beat next year.
The 12-lber “Surgical Strike” (Figure
5), that was featured in the “Going
Brushless” article in the July issue of
SERVO, won first place in its class. The
new motor was a big improvement and
most its matches ended in knockouts.
The Federation of International
Robosoccer Association (FIRA) (www.
fira.net) held its 12th FIRA Robo World
Cup at RoboGames. There are seven
different classes but the ones that
really caught my eye were the MIRoSot
11: 11 and the similar 5: 5.
There are 11 small robots (the size
of a 3” cube) on each side and they play
fully autonomous games of soccer. Each
bot has a unique color pattern on its
topside and an overhead video camera
is used to determine the position and
orientation of each bot. Each team uses
high powered computers to scan the
image, and control — via a RC link — its
bots in order to score goals (Figure 6).
It’s amazing how well this all works. The
bots show remarkable agility, speed,
and precision, and make a fine demonstration of optical recognition, computer power, and high speed RC links.
Robosoccer is dominated at present
by teams from Singapore, Korea,
Taiwan, and China with the sole exception of the KheperaSot class of fully
autonomous bots, where teams from
Germany took the first three places.
The results for this and other
classes that competed at RoboGames
can be found online at http://robo