RoboCup 2021 - Brainstorming ideas for alternative competition formats

Dear Humanoid Teams,

given the current covid-19 situation, it may be possible that we need to make some adjustments to the Humanoid League competitions (Soccer Competition and Research Demonstration) for RoboCup 2021.

There are three potential scenarios we would like to get your input on:
a) If we have a physical competition in Bordeaux, how can we best organize the tournament with a limited amount of people on-site and ensuring the event is as safe as possible for the teams? (physical event)
b) In case some countries keep having travel restrictions, how could a tournament be set up to allow for both physically and virtually present teams to compete? (hybrid event)
c) In case we would not be able to have a physical event in Bordeaux, how could we organize a fully virtual competition? (virtual event)

We are looking for creative ideas - especially for the hybrid and the virtual event, the ideas do not need to follow the current rule book for the Humanoid League. However, they should still capture interesting research challenges for the humanoid league, hence involving humanoid robots and/or challenges meaningful to playing soccer with humanoid robots.

We would be happy to receive your ideas by November 23rd.

Hi everyone,

I hope you and your team are healthy :slight_smile:

Please note that these are my thought, and does not necessarily reflect team "NimbRo"s opinion.

I don’t think we can do better than enforcing mask-wearing and 1.5-meters distance between everyone. It might also be a good idea to limit the number of participants for each team to a limited number like 5. We should have a digital thermometer on-site and regularly check the temperature. Also, everyone should do a Covid-19 test in the setup days!

I don’t think it is possible to have a match between real and virtual robots.

By nature, our league is different from “Simulation League”, and I personally won’t recommend changing our league just to have a semi-reasonable match this year. If we cannot have a physical event, the best we can do is having an online conference similar to this year.
In case we really want to have a simulated match, I would suggest using a standard simulation environment like Gazebo in ROS. Every team should use the same robot kinematic as their real robot. But there are many technical difficulties like network lag, security, etc.

Maybe we can have a technical challenge by zoom! Of course, we should modify and limit the challenges to those compatible with the situation.

a) Limiting the number of people per team to something like 5 would easily be doable. Of course, everybody would like to come, but this would be an easy to implement measure. We could even go further and limit the number to 1-2 persons per team. This will obviously lead to additional difficulties, e.g. carrying the robots + equipment, but maybe we could also limit the number of robots (e.g. 1 for adult, 2 for kid size) to counter this problem. This would kind of a step back, as we are trying to increase the number of robots over time, but better than having no competition. It would also put more focus on reliability and preparedness, since you can not fix so much during competition, but I would not say that this is such a bad thing.
Enforcing 1.5m distance during matches will be not be doable for robot handler and referees.
b) We participated in the running robot competition this year, which was done kind of hybrid. They had some real robot competition and some simulated competitions, but both were totally independent. Of course, it would be possible to do something like this, but there was no connection between the two competitions, so there was no real additional value. But if we have a situation where half the league can come and half not, that would be an option to have something for both.
c) I would see a simulated competition not so negative. Of course this is not the goal of our league, but it would still be better than having no competition at all. Furthermore, having a competition in a simulator like Gazebo or Webots with different robot models and maybe some additional challenges such as light and background changes would be quiet a difference to the existing 3D simulation league.
Alternatively, it would also be possible to do something similar to the RoboCup Brazil Open which just finished last week. There the teams had to program a robot detection algorithm which was evaluated an identical amazon server in regards to accuracy and runtime. Furthermore, each team had to hand in a video where they described different aspects of their team and their research. This was then rated by a jury. It was quiet nice, because you got a good idea what other teams are researching and how their team is structured. In my opinion, the exchange between team in the league could still be improved and this would be one way to do it.
I think that something in the direction of the Brazil Open would be possible, maybe with more programming challenges on datasets or in simulation.
At the very least we should do a workshop like last year.

Hope everybody is well!

On behalf of the Electric Sheep team:

a) Physical event:

  1. (Obviously) a private only event without public visitors, expand the team areas to reduce inter-team physical contact. Public interaction could be in the form of live streams.

  2. If tests are required (i.e. COVID is still very much a problem) then the implications around this would suggest not to have a physical event. For example, if the virus is spreading as it is now in many Countries, it’s highly likely that teams outside of Europe would have to quarantine for 2-3 weeks, meaning the entire competition could take a month for some teams. There is also the question of sharing of COVID data (often voluntary) and situations where teams are left without key members.

  3. If vaccines are available and shown to be affective, it should be at least be highly suggested that teams voluntarily take it.

b) Hybrid event:

  1. Showcasing advanced features either by video or live stream, which could include technical challenges.

  2. Drop-in games for the participants that show up. This both limits the number of robots and people that would have to attend on behalf of a team to demonstrate their robot’s capability.

  3. Convert the event more into a hackathon, where teams are able to share ideas, work on bugs/features and present concepts in some less formal setting.

  4. Host workshops where teams can teach other teams anywhere from basic to advanced concepts, something that can also be done over video chat.

c) Virtual event:

  1. The previously mentioned ideas, such as: Showcasing, hackathon and workshops.

  2. Very similar to the virtual event held this year, but have presentations also for the conference (publishing incentive).

In any case:

  1. Commit early (some time now) to the most likely outcome. Teams need time to prepare for whichever option to make it successful.

  2. Have more of an academic focus this year, rather than a competition focus. For example, commit early to just having drop-in game or competition games, not both.

Hi everyone! I hope you are fine and safe.

These are some ideas and considerations from Bold Hearts.

As general consideration, we believe that numbers of participants or even of a team would be subjected to local regulations. Government might require 7 or 15 days of quarantine, but also maximum numbers of people gathered. Teams might also not be able or decide to not participate. However, our suggestions are the following:

  • In an in-person competition: If there is a question of number of people allowed, we imagine this would be defined by French regulations. If possible the organisers should separate leagues into separate venues so limits do not apply to the full RoboCup but to separate leagues. We support Farazi’s suggestions of enforcing masks, distance, and testing for the virus.

  • In a hybrid competition: Same precautions for people in loco should be applied as for the in-person competition. We could have

  1. on-line talks/tutorials/seminars;
  2. on-line competitions for robot’s vision and walking algorithms
  3. Technical Challenges in person.

It would be interesting if one or two teams would offer their robots for others to deploy their code to, maybe just bits like a gait generator or the vision module, given some standard interface, and they run the robots at the field with different code from different teams. Would still require the effort on those teams to prepare the interfaces for that though, and other teams to adapt their code for that. Would maybe be a little less of a barrier than setting up a whole simulation based competition, but would probably still be too little time. And all teams need to chip in for repairs on those robots then in case of breaks and so on.

  • In a fully-virtual competition: We could have
  1. on-line talks/tutorials/seminars;
  2. on-line competitions for robot’s vision, walking, other abilities.
  3. on-line challenge on AI-supported 3D printing or designing.

For the online competitions, there can be different ways as approach. One could be similar to what they did at Brazil Open for their vision competition. They provided for each team an instance of Amazon EC2 C5 which it might help with lagging and internet problems. Amazon also has free tiers for a certain amount of hours/instances which could be investigated more if it is of interest.

Even if a simulated match might be interesting, it is unlikely that teams will be able to have something working due to the challenges of first agreeing on a simulator and settings, then having their code in such setting in time.