by David Geer
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Northern Bites
RoboCup was born to call attention to artificial intelligence and intelligent robot
research, according to RoboCup.org. The subsequent contests and competitions challenge
roboticists from various colleges and universities around the world to build the best
AI robots and prove their achievements by winning all-robot soccer meets.
Playing soccer (football outside
the US) requires robots to
demonstrate many of the
emerging technological capabilities
that AI must rely on. According to
RoboCup.org, these include teamwork, certain real-time intellectual
properties, and advanced motion
control. In 2007, teams of hacked
Sony Aibo robot dogs competed in
the Four-Legged League of RoboCup
for the championship prize. The
overall winner was the Northern Bites
team from Bowdoin College.
The Northern Bites
Parents weekend at Bowdoin College;
families gathered to watch a
Northern Bites Soccer match.
The Northern Bites team
uses a total of 12 ERS- 7 Aibos,
including four from each of the
models a, b, and c, according to
Professor Eric Chown, the team
advisor at Bowdoin College.
While the RoboCup rules
strictly prohibit physical modifications to the robots, the Aibo’s
necks are not strong enough for
the soccer competitions. When a
German team discovered a way
to make the necks tougher and
more resilient, RoboCup decided
to permit all teams to make the
same physical improvements in
Except for these minor
physical adjustments, each team’s
main objective is to program the
robots so they can play soccer.
The best programming for the
task should naturally lead a team
to become the ultimate champs in
the Soccer competition. In 2007,
the best programming would
come from Bowdoin College.
The Northern Bites team uses
“SVN” as their version control
software, and “Trac” as their overall
project manager, according to
Professor Chown. While the Northern
Bites programmers could also
have used existing development
environments like Tekotsu, they
decided to write the rest of their tools
and software for the Aibos from
scratch. “We’re computer scientists!
We can write our own tools. Now,
we have a whole suite of tools (that
we are currently integrating into one
system called ‘the tool’),” says Chown.
While the Northern Bites team
and competing RoboCup teams use
Aibos as they come — with their own
operating system software — this has
been an obstacle rather than an aid.
Sony created the Aibos as toys and
with limited functionality, not as
full-on Soccer athletes. Each team has
had to adapt the existing software by
adding code and other programming
to make them Soccer-ready.
Memory Stick is
One of the limitations of the Aibo
software involves the robot’s physical
10 SERVO 05.2008