RoboCup@HOME 2018: Team SPQReL’s world cup adventure

It was RoboCup time again, this time in Montreal, Canada! After a respectable 3rd place in 2017 (with 7 qualified teams in our sub-league “RoboCup@Home Social Standard Platform League (@HOME-SSPL)“), the joint “SPQReL” team with members from the “LabRococo” at the Università degli Studi di Roma ‘La Sapienza'” and the “Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems” of the University of Lincoln qualified again for the 2018 world cup. SPQReL’s Pepper robot “Peppino” was set to compete against 8 other teams from all over the world (teams from Germany, Chile, Australia, Spain, France, Korea, Sweden and the USA were our qualified competitors). The overall performance in the SSPL league was most impressive when compared to last year (the first incarnation of this new sub-league using the SoftBank Pepper robot as the standard platform), with all teams significantly advancing the abilities of the Pepper robot in the set tasks of the @HOME league. Consequently, the overall performance in this sub-league was superior to the performance in the other two sub-leagues – an outcome most surprising given the limited perception and computation capabilities of the Pepper platform. It was a tough competition this year, in the most competitive league of the RoboCup@Home league.

Team SPQReL this year, unfortunately, missed qualification for stage 2 in the competition (details about the stages and rules can be found in the rulebook) by a very small margin of 18 points. Despite this disappointment, our small team of 1 Professor, 2 PostDocs, and 2 Phd students was praised for its overall approach of directly linking our research with the competition tasks and our innovative approaches to address the limitations of the standardised platform. We fostered our international links and significantly increased the visbility of the robotics research in our respective labs. And we have gathered masses of data and experience, looking to improve further and to turn our scientific achievements and data sets into scientific outputs in due course.

What and who is team SPQReL?

The SPQReL team participates in RoboCup@Home Social Standard Platform League and is also participating to the European Robotics League Service Robots. It is the only British qualified team in the RoboCup@Home league and one of in total only four teams from Britain in the entire RoboCup world cup this year.

The team is formed by two research groups:

  • Cognitive Cooperating Robots (RoCoCo) Lab at Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
  • Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems (L-CAS) at University of Lincoln, UK.

SPQReL stems from the pseudo-Latin term “Socialis robot PopulusQue Romanus et Lindensis” that can be translated as “Social robot and people from Rome and Lincoln”, referring to the Roman city of Lindum (which is now Lincoln).

The SPQReL team participated for the first time as a joint team in the RoboCup@Home Social Standard Platform League 2017, in Nagoya, Japan, gaining the 3rd place.

Team members 2018

  • Team leader: Dr. María Teresa Lázaro Grañón (Sapienza)
  • Scientific Advisory Board
    • Prof. Luca Iocchi (Sapienza)
    • Prof. Marc Hanheide (Lincoln)
    • Prof. Daniele Nardi (Sapienza)
  • Core Team:
    • Manuel Fernandez-Carmona (Lincoln)
    • Sergi Molina Mellado (Lincoln)
    • Francesco del Duchetto (Lincoln)

What is RoboCup?

The objective is to use RoboCup as a vehicle to promote robotics and AI research, by offering a publicly appealing, but formidable challenge. One of the effective ways to promote science and engineering research is to set challenging long-term goals. When the accomplishment of such a goal has a significant social impact, it is called a grand challenge project. RoboCup started off with robots playing football but has since evolved into different leagues, covering applications in industry, rescue robotics, service robotics, and still football-playing robots. It is the world’s largest robotic competition and benchmark, with many regional and national qualification tournaments.

What is RoboCup@Home?

The RoboCup@Home league aims to develop service and assistive robot technology with high relevance for future personal domestic applications. It is the largest international annual competition for autonomous service robots and is part of the RoboCup initiative. A set of benchmark tests is used to evaluate the robots’ abilities and performance in a realistic non-standardized home environment setting. The focus lies on the following domains but is not limited to: Human-Robot-Interaction and Cooperation, Navigation and Mapping in dynamic environments, Computer Vision and Object Recognition under natural light conditions, Object Manipulation, Adaptive Behaviors, Behavior Integration, Ambient Intelligence, Standardization and System Integration.