“We have worked our socks off this past year and are highly motivated to win this year's events,” says an enthusiastic Wouter Kuijpers, team leader of the robot soccer team. In recent months the team has developed three new elements intended to give them the edge on the competition.
Firstly, they will be playing a robot with eight wheels. “Other robots have a platform with three or four wheels,” says Kuijpers. “The robot with eight wheels can move faster and, even more importantly, can accelerate quickly. Playing defense he can maneuver easily among other players, and once he's up front and has the ball, he can score quickly. We are going to spend a year on testing and further development, and once it's working as we want it to, I expect other teams will adopt it. That will change the league dramatically.”
Another development is the possibility of using a dribble technique, Kuijpers explains. ”The rules state that the robots are allowed to ‘walk’ three meters with the ball and after that they must pass. What they may also do is release the ball, push it forward and then hold it again. Our robots haven't yet been able to do this. A bachelor's student and an intern have studied ways to change that. We hope this will enable us to break out of the three-meter circle. We'll definitely be testing this in Sydney, and perhaps also in Portugal.”
And finally, during the last year some team members have rewritten the software for implementing new strategies. The team leader: “The robots adapt to the situation in the pitch, but regardless of whether the opponent is playing a particular formation, the robots react in the same way. The idea is that instead they'll choose the best tactic from a range of scenarios.”
The healthcare robot team will be playing HERO, the Human Support Robot produced by Toyota, for the first time at the German Open and after that at the Worlds in Sydney. The team previously took part with robots SERGIO and AMIGO. Team leader Matthijs van der Burgh reveals that AMIGO is now ‘semi-retired’. “One of the things we noticed was that there was more play in the arms; he was having increasing problems picking up the ball. SERGIO was still in development and partly because a dwindling number of teams seemed to be taking part in the open league, we decided to play HERO and take part in the league for the Toyota HRS robots.” Some 90 percent of the software used in the previous robots could be used for HERO, Van der Burgh reveals.
The team leader won't yet be drawn on the results the healthcare robots are going to achieve. “Come what may, the matches provide a good opportunity to test everything.”