Probot Oy Takes Part in the Austrian Robotics Competition


Experts from the University of Oulu’s research group BISG and Probot Oy have been involved in the preparations for the ELROB competition. In the picture (from left to right) Olli-Pekka Nikka, Matti Tikanmäki, Kari Anunti, Juho Kokkonen and Antti Tikanmäki. Missing are Timo Mäenpää, Siva Ariram, Oskari Virtanen, Toni Tolonen and Miikka Huusko.

The University of Oulu and Probot Oy have been collaborating on robotics for years. This summer, for the fifth time, we will participate together in the European Robotics Competition in Eggendorf.

ELROB, or European Land Robot Trial, is a European robotics competition. ELROB2022 will take place in Eggendorf, Austria from 30 May to 3 June 2022.

“ELROB is a good opportunity to showcase Oulu’s expertise, network internationally, and test the equipment developed in practical conditions,” says Antti Tikanmäki, team leader of the Oulu Robotics Team, which will be participating in the competition.

The Oulu Robotics Team is a team of about 10 people, combining the university’s biomimetics and intelligent systems research group BISG and Probot experts. The same team first competed in 2007. The team has already won four ELROB competitions, including a scenario win and the Best Innovative Solution award. In 2009, ELROB was helded in Oulu, where the team helped to organize the event.

Five Robots Entering the Race

Preparations for the actual competition have been underway for six months. The equipment for the competition is a result of the cooperation between these two organizations. At the university, the focus has been on software development. In addition, the competition will test the VR user interface developed in cooperation.

The Oulu Robotics Team will participate with two smaller robots, a robot car and two robot dogs. One smaller robot is equipped with a robotic arm, while the other has a 3D scanner for observing the environment. The robot car is a Toyota Rav4, an automatic off-road vehicle from the university’s research facility, equipped to move autonomously. The car is part of the University of Oulu’s research facility. The Unitree Go 1 Pro robot dogs are making their debut at the event and getting tested in the scenarios for the first time.

The robot developed by Oulu Robotics Team moves on four wheels, even in challenging conditions. The robot is equipped with a 3D scanner that enables it to observe the environment.
Oulu Robotics Team’s other wheeled robot is equipped with a robot hand. It is capable of performing a wide range of rescue tasks.
Robot dog running outside.
A robot dog can move more agilely than a wheeled robot for example on stairs.

Challenging Scenarios and Conditions

In the competition, teams participate in pre-selected scenarios involving e.g. logistics, security and rescue tasks. The robots have to perform various tasks in the screnarios, such as finding things in marked areas and transporting loads from place a to place b. The Oulu Robotics Team will participate in four out of five scenarios.

In the first scenario, the robot’s task is to find signs and dangerous substances, for example, indoors. In the second scenario, the robot searches for victim dummies outside over a wider area. In the third scenario, the robot has to be able to walk one and a half kilometers between two camps. The fourth scenario is a longer journey, the Convoy. The robot car must follow another car and overcome obstacles on the way. In each mission, the robot has to create a map of the scenario’s area.

“My favorite scenario is the indoor scenario because it challenges communication differently from the outdoor scenario. Of course in outdoor scenarios, the weather is always a big question mark.” Tikanmäki reflects.

Development Work Is the Key

The trip also gives a chance to see the world, as the roadmap starting from Oulu includes the Baltic countries, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Austria. During the trip the robot car will be used to collect data for use in development work. After the competition, some team members will head to Paris to attend the VivaTech fair, Europe’s largest startup and technology event, which will take place from 15 to 18 June 2022.

“From a researcher’s point of view, the good thing about the competition is that the scenarios are in challenging conditions, and everything has to work by the time the race starts. However, competition requires everything to work. The race teaches you well what can work and what can go wrong when you get to the real conditions.”

Antti Tikanmäki

Expectations are high and the Oulu Robotics Team is aiming for victory. Still, experience and development are the most important things, and will continue after the race.

Robot dog posing outdoors.
For the first time this year, the Oulu Robotics Team will test the robot dog in challenging scenarios at the ELROB competition.

Read more from the ELROB webpage.

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