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LiU robot best at cooking

David the robot

The FIA Robotics student team and their robot David were the winners in an international cooking competition for robots that concluded in Madrid recently.  The team won by a narrow margin over the second-place Mexican team.

The Humabot Challenge robot competition – the first of its kind – attracted eight teams from around the world. The competition consisted of programming a robot to carry out three pre-assigned kitchen chores. Switching off a hot cooker ring, identifying what items there are in a pantry and writing a shopping list, and finally cooking tomato soup.

After the first event the LiU robot had a big lead.

“David went quickly up to the cooker, saw which ring was on and switched it off. We got maximum points and a time bonus,” recounts Fredrik Löfgren from the LiU team.

The next task proved more difficult. The robot found his way around the kitchen and opened the pantry door, but then found it difficult to identify what was inside. David managed to identify one of the objects, a packet of muesli, but the Mexican robot identified two. The other teams encountered even more problems with the task so Linköping University kept the lead after the second task, albeit a narrow one.

David had completed the third task – cooking tomato soup – successfully in practice, so the FIA Robotics fellows felt relatively secure. But unfortunately, the robot dropped one of the tomatoes on the floor.

 “David the robot must have been nervous. But fortunately all the other teams also had problems, and none of the robots successfully completed the task. The judges allowed each team a couple more attempts but none was successful. So we won with the points we got in the first two tasks,” Mr Löfgren explained.

Fredrik Heintz, senior lecturer in Computer Science at the Department of Computer and Information Science, is more than happy with the team’s effort.

“Many of the students are in the second or third year of their courses, and it is great to see them finding out how they can achieve results that are competitive despite limited resources,” he says.

Nor is coordinating the hands, feet, arms and legs of a robot and judging distance using data coming from cameras an easy task.

“Sure, now we can make robots that can do this under certain kinds of conditions. The challenge is to build robust systems that function in every environment and situation. We still have a little way to go in our research,” Mr Heintz says. 

The winning teamThe team from LiU have now returned home after a couple of intensive days.

“We had a great time! These kinds of competitions are mentally frustrating, when you can only switch on the robot and stand back and watch. But it is also enormously satisfying when the robot does what you have told it to do. We also got to see a lot of great robots and talk to some leading researchers! We really were with the very latest in humanoid robots,” Mr Löfgren recounts.

In addition to Mr Löfgren, the LiU team in Madrid consisted of Fredrik Bengtsson, Tore Haglund, David Bergström and David the robot. Back in Sweden there was also Jon Dybeck, Mikael Szreder, Daniel Rapp and Sebastian Gustafsson. They are all students at Linköping University except David the robot, who works at the Department of Computer and Information Science.

The competition was part of the 2014 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots which this year was held on November 18–20 in Madrid.

Photo: Tore Haglund


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