Home Robotics Interview with Marek Šuppa: insights into RoboCupJunior

Interview with Marek Šuppa: insights into RoboCupJunior

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 includes numerous leagues, and amongst them is RoboCupJunior, which is designed to introduce RoboCup to highschool kids, with the main target being on training. There are three sub-leagues: Soccer, Rescue and OnStage.

Marek Šuppa serves on the Govt Committee for RoboCupJunior, and he instructed us concerning the competitors this 12 months and the newest developments within the Soccer league.

What’s your function 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 staff didn’t do all that nicely 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 chargeable for the organisation of RoboCupJunior as a complete.

How was the occasion this 12 months? What have been a number of the highlights?

I assume this 12 months’s theme or slogan, if we have been to provide it one, could be “again to regular”, or one thing like that. Though RoboCup 2022 already passed off in-person in Thailand final 12 months after two years of a pandemic pause, it was in a slightly restricted capability, as COVID-19 nonetheless affected fairly just a few areas. It was nice to see that the RoboCup neighborhood was in a position to 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 might 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 nevertheless it received cancelled on account of COVID-19. However they didn’t surrender on the thought 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 speak concerning the mission of the league and the way you, as organisers, go about realising that mission?

The mission of RoboCupJunior consists of two competing targets: on one hand, it must be a problem that’s approachable, fascinating and related for (principally) 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 charming for the scholars and on the identical time guarantee it’s technical sufficient to assist them develop in the direction of the RoboCup “Main” challenges.

One of many methods we do that’s by introducing what we name “SuperTeam” challenges, through which groups from respective international locations kind 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 area that’s six instances bigger than the “commonplace” fields which are used for the person video games. Whereas within the particular person matches every staff can play with two robots at most (leading to a 2v2 recreation) in a SuperTeam match every SuperTeam fields 5 robots, which means there are 10 robots that play on the SuperTeam area 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 obtained on them was overwhelmingly optimistic: it was a variety 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 manner of speaking with each other and moreover, the referees didn’t have a manner of speaking with the robots. The consequence was that not solely was there little coordination amongst robots of the identical SuperTeam, every time the sport wanted to be stopped, the referees needed to bodily run after the robots on the sector to catch them and do a kickoff after a objective was scored. Though hilarious, it’s removed from how we’d think about the SuperTeam video games to look.

The RoboCupJunior Soccer Commonplace Communication Modules goal to do each. The module itself is a small gadget that’s hooked up to every robotic on the SuperTeam area. These gadgets are all linked by way of Bluetooth to a single smartphone, via which the referee can ship instructions to all robots on the sector. The gadgets themselves additionally assist direct message alternate between robots on a single SuperTeam, which means the groups would not have to take a position into determining the way to talk with the opposite robots however could make use of a typical platform. The gadgets, in addition to their firmware, are open supply, which means not solely that everybody can construct their very own Commonplace Communication Module in the event that they’d like but in addition that the neighborhood can take part in its improvement, 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 massive public check we targeted on exploring how (and whether or not) these modules can enhance the gameplay – particularly the “chasing robots at kickoff”. Though we’ve finished “lab experiments” prior to now and had some empirical proof that it ought to work slightly nicely, 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 nicely and for a few of us, who occurred to have expertise with “robotic chasing” talked about above, it was kind 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 would not have an influence supply of their very own and have been powered by the robots themselves. We didn’t suppose this is able to be an issue however within the “actual world” check it transpired that the voltage ranges the robots are able to offering fluctuates considerably – as an illustration when the robotic decides to aggressively speed up – which in flip means a number of 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 once we design the following iterations.

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

Might you inform us concerning the emergence of deep-learning fashions within the RoboCupJunior leagues?

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

Nicely, to our nice shock, a number of the extra superior groups have began to utilise strategies and applied sciences which are very near the present state-of-the-art in varied areas, notably laptop imaginative and prescient and deep studying. A great instance could be object detectors (normally primarily based on the YOLO structure), which are actually used throughout all three Junior leagues: in OnStage to detect varied 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 mandatory 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 much from trivial and could be very near how these applied sciences get utilized in each analysis and business.

Though we have now seen solely the extra superior groups use deep-learning fashions at RoboCupJunior, we count on that sooner or later we are going to see it turn into far more prevalent, particularly because the know-how and the tooling round it turns into extra mature and sturdy. 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 folks get entangled in RCJ (both as a participant or an organiser?)

An excellent query!

The very best place to begin could be the RoboCupJunior web site the place one can discover many fascinating particulars about RoboCupJunior, the respective leagues (similar 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 best manner 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 matters within the open. The neighborhood 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 young person 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, notably from textual content and pictures. He at the moment serves because the Principal Information Scientist at Slido (a part of Cisco), enhancing the way in which conferences are run all over the world. 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 Govt Committee.

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Lucy Smith
is Managing Editor for AIhub.



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