Nao Robot Footballers Work On Walking
Written by Lucy Black   
Sunday, 09 April 2023

B-Human is nine-time winner of the RoboCup Standard League so it must be doing something right. The team recently posted a video on the progress being made on the most basic skill required for participation in RoboCup - walking without falling over.

With this year's RoboCup due to take place in Bordeaux, France in July the B-Human team are keen to show of the new mobility and stability skills of their Nao robots. Despite the fact that the individual robot in the video suffers from worn our joints after many years of competitive 5-a-side football, it seems remarkably nimble when you take into account that the video is at one-eighth speed. And, despite the obvious concern of the human trainer, the robot maintains its balance.

In the final seconds of the video we see two teams of Nao Robots. While the team in red use the "new" walking skills from 2023, the team in black uses the "old 2022 walk". In a confrontation for which robot takes control of the ball, the black robot cannot prevent a fall whereas the red robot is able to maintain its balance.

A video posted a few weeks earlier and lasting only a minute provides a split screen comparison of the new and old walks. To the casual observer the "old" walk is a slow shuffle whereas the "new" version is faster with a stride (well hardly!) that is slightly longer:

The technical explanation given is:

Our new walk uses the previous approach as a baseline. To ensure stability, we use a regulation to modify the allowed rotation speed of the support foot’s joints. Thus, the different leg parts will still execute the intended motion, but based on the center of mass and the measured rotation errors of the support foot, some leg parts are slowed down if needed.

And from the notes of the later video it transpires that:

as an unintended effect, the robots lift up on the tip of the supporting foot, just like humans do.

B-Human has competed in the Standard Platform League since 2008 - prior to that it had participated in the Humanoid League. 2009 was the first time it was placed first and it has been in the top three every year since. This has required a lot of human endeavour. The current team is made up of two team leaders, Thomas Rofe and Tim Laue, thirteen students and three active alumni. There are 150 former team members and over forty theses have been written on aspects of the work. This is in addition to several annual Robocup related publications since 2006 and Team Reports with code releases since 2008. A blog was started by Tim Laue in 2019 with several photo galleries. A year later Laue added a long post about the 2019 RoboCup season and more photo galleries were added in 2021 and 2022. 

There's no getting away from the fact that Nao is a very photogenic robot and its tendency to fall down and pick itself back up just adds to our impression of it being cute and friendly.

b-human

 

More Information

B-Human

RoboCup 23

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