The RoboCup community has strongly grown during the past years. Beside the annual world championship and RoboCup symposium there are plenty of local events, for example German Open, Japan Open, Iran Open etc. and workshops at international conferences, e.g., the Workshop on Humanoid Soccer Robots at the Humanoids conference. Additionally, many contributions at international symposia, conferences and journals underline the significance of the RoboCup community.
However, the larger the community gets, the more difficult it becomes to establish the exchange of knowledge within the community. This is because the large events aim to present the final results to the public rather than to share implementational details with other RoboCuppers.
The knowledge on a more practical level is distributed within the RoboCup community by source releases, team description papers and discussions at RoboCup, conferences etc..
However, at a conference or an international workshop only newest and essential research results can be presented, i.e., usually there is no time for deep discussion of implementation or technical problems. Additionally, only few selected members of a team may attend such events.
The RoboCup competitions provides such possibilities, however, due to the competitive character of the event there is usually not sufficient time to talk extensively with a lot of other people while preparing games at the same time.
So the missing links in that chain are events that give teams a possibility to communicate at a pragmatic level with no pressure of competition or publicity in a lab-like manner, which is not possible at a conference or competition. We propose to foster such events and hope that our RoBOW-workshops will motivate other teams to organize similar local events.
Past and Planned Workshops
So far we have organized several informal workshops which slowly became a tradition. The number of participants has rapidly grown as well as the number of teams interested in future workshops.
In early 2010 we started to organize meetings between the SPL-Team NaoTH and the Kid-Size Team FUmanoids, which are both located in Berlin, Germany at different universities. After other teams showed interest to join those meetings we organized the first two-day workshop in February 2011 with the name RoboCup Berlin Open Workshop 2011 – RoBOW’11 with three teams (NaoTH, FUmanoids and Nao-Team HTWK) and about 20 participants. As it became a great success and due to more interested teams we organized a second three-day workshop RoBOW’11.2 in May 2011 with six teams and about 30 participants from all over Germany. In particular, the following teams attended the workshop: NaoTH (SPL, Berlin), Nao-Team HTWK (SPL, Leipzig), Nao Devils (SPL, Dortmund), Bembelbots (SPL, Frankfurt), FUmanoids (HL Kid-Size, Berlin), WF Wolves (HL Kid-Size, Wolfenbüttel).
The organizing teams have a long history in RoboCup and have participated since the very beginning in different leagues. Based on this background and experiences collected during the past two workshops we could extract some basic principles of the workshop. In essence, informality is key, i.e., the games that are played are not executed as a competition and there is no strong formal frame or schedule for talks. Talks and discussions are pragmatic and often held on a practical level, with the topics proposed and selected by all teams. In general, teams are not required to invest much time in preparation and attendance should be free or low-cost (meals, accommodation) to encourage many team members to participate. Finally, the workshop is organized in a large room where all teams are close together, enabling constant communication and exchange. In particular, the workshop addresses not only a team’s main researchers, but also the developers in charge of the research results’ integration. Bringing those people together in this environment allows to bridge the gap from state of the art research to working systems capable of winning competitions.
For the year 2012 we plan at least two additional workshops of this kind. The first will be early February 2012 in Berlin, Germany, again hosted by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (NaoTH).
We currently expect about 8 teams (so far we have 6 confirmations) from the Humanoid League and SPL with about 50 participants. The second workshop will be around May. Both events will be documented with slides of talks, photos and videos similar to the past events.
Impact on the RoboCup Community
We believe that the organization of such local workshops is a next step in the development of the RoboCup community in order to strengthen the basis and to tighten the cooperation and communication between teams. The synergy gained from this cooperation is advantageous for all teams and prevents the concentration on integration problems which other teams already solved, thus allowing more focus on future research. The expected short term impact is increased quality in games at RoboCup competitions, while in mid and long terms this may help the leagues to faster and more successfully cope with new challenges. This workshop is actually not meant to grow into a large single event, although it has the potential. The aim for the future is to encourage a mesh of small local events, distributed spatially and temporally. Beside this, we hope to encourage cooperation between different leagues, e.g., the Humanoid League and SPL.