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

Marek Šuppa serves on the Government Committee for RoboCupJunior, and he instructed us in regards to the competitors this 12 months and the most recent 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 workforce 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 liable for the organisation of RoboCupJunior as a complete.

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

I assume this 12 months’s theme or slogan, if we had been to offer it one, can be “again to regular”, or one thing like that. Though RoboCup 2022 already occurred in-person in Thailand final 12 months after two years of a pandemic pause, it was in a moderately restricted capability, as COVID-19 nonetheless affected fairly a number 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 might even be troublesome to do that query justice with out thanking the native French organisers. They had been really able to organise the occasion in 2020 nevertheless it bought cancelled as a consequence of COVID-19. However they didn’t hand over 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, may you speak 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 goals: on one hand, it must be a problem that’s approachable, attention-grabbing and related for (largely) highschool college students and on the similar time it must be carefully associated to the RoboCup “Main” challenges, that are tackled by college college students and their mentors. We’re therefore constantly attempting to each make it extra compelling and fascinating for the scholars and on the similar 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 nations type a so-called “SuperTeam” and compete in opposition to one other “SuperTeam” as if these had been distinct groups. In RoboCupJunior Soccer the “SuperTeams” are composed of 4 to 5 groups and so they compete on a subject that’s six occasions bigger than the “commonplace” fields which can be used for the person video games. Whereas within the particular person matches every workforce 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 obtained on them was overwhelmingly constructive: it was plenty 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, 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 purpose was scored. Though hilarious, it’s removed from how we’d think about the SuperTeam video games to look.

The RoboCupJunior Soccer Customary Communication Modules purpose to do each. The module itself is a small gadget that’s hooked up to every robotic on the SuperTeam subject. These gadgets 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 gadgets themselves additionally help direct message alternate between robots on a single SuperTeam, that means the groups should not have to speculate 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, that means not solely that everybody can construct their very own Customary 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 attention-grabbing 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 take a look at we targeted on exploring how (and whether or not) these modules can enhance the gameplay – particularly the “chasing robots at kickoff”. Though we’ve achieved “lab experiments” previously and had some empirical proof that it ought to work moderately properly, this was the primary time we tried it in an actual competitors.

All in all, I might say that it was a really constructive 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 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 should not have an influence supply of their very own and had been powered by the robots themselves. We didn’t suppose this could 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 – for example when the robotic decides to aggressively speed up – which in flip means a number of the modules disconnect when the voltage is lowered considerably. Nonetheless, it ended up being a pleasant lesson for everybody concerned, one which we are able to actually study 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. It’s also possible to 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 watch 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 usually – 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 troublesome to arrange for the highschool college students that comprise nearly all of RoboCupJunior college students.

Effectively, to our nice shock, a number of 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 laptop imaginative and prescient and deep studying. A superb instance can be object detectors (often based mostly 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 objectives, and the opponents. And whereas the individuals typically used an off-the-shelf implementations, they nonetheless wanted to do all of the steps obligatory 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 may be very near how these applied sciences get utilized in each analysis and trade.

Though we have now seen solely the extra superior groups use deep-learning fashions at RoboCupJunior, we count on that sooner or later we’ll see it change into way 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 perfect place to start out can be the RoboCupJunior web site the place one can discover many attention-grabbing 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 manner of getting began with RoboCup Junior.

Moreover, I can actually advocate the RoboCupJunior discussion board, the place many RoboCupJunior individuals, previous and current, in addition to the organisers, focus on many associated subjects within the open. The group may be very newbie pleasant, so if RoboCupJunior sounds attention-grabbing, don’t hesitate to cease by and say hello!

About Marek Šuppa

Marek Suppa

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

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Lucy Smith
is Managing Editor for AIhub.


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