Saturday, July 29, 2017

Competing in the final!

Team Applied Robotics made it to the final of the Amazon Robotics Challenge 2017! We arrived in Nagoya the weekend before the competition and started running tests in simulation. This was the first chance most of us had to meet each other as development was split between team members in the Netherlands and Australia.

The Amazon Robotics Challenge involves two tasks, a stow task and a pick task. In the stow task, 32 items need to be placed from a tote into a storage system, simulating the packing of a storage system in a distribution centre. The items in the tote are piled together haphazardly, meaning recognition is difficult. The pick task involves moving specific items from a stocked storage system into three boxes, as if an order is being fulfilled for a customer. The final consists of a back to back stow and pick task. Before we arrived, we knew the stow task would be our weak point but that our storage system design, which uses multiple flat shelves to maximise surface area, would enable a good pick task.

On Thursday we had the official practice runs where teams could choose to practice a stow or pick task. We chose a stow task in preparation for the stow task on Friday. On Friday morning we arrived to find our Realsense cameras not working, due to an automatic kernel update that was downloaded the day before. After a stressful morning we worked out how to fix the issue and we had our stow run at 16.00, getting 5 points.

Immediately after the stow task we started testing the pick task ready for Saturday morning. We were the first team up at 9.30 so everything had to be in working order on Friday evening when the convention centre closed. Our pick run went very well and we got 140 points. This was better than expected, and opened the door to progressing to the finals. During the course of the day the other teams had their pick runs and we prepared in the event we made it through.  After the last team ran at 18.00 we found out we had made it into the top 8 teams competing in the final on Sunday, and we spent Saturday evening getting everything ready for our finals run on Sunday morning. In the finals, we stowed two items from the tote into our storage system and picked one item from the storage system into a box, giving us 20 points. At time of writing the other finalists are doing their final runs.

Team Applied Robotics 2017 pick task 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Team Applied Robotics returns to the Amazon Robotics Challenge 2017

We are excited to have been selected as one of sixteen teams worldwide to compete at the Amazon Robotics Challenge 2017! This year's event will be held at the end of July at Robocup 2017 in Nagoya, Japan.

The challenge has evolved through the years, and this year brings two main opportunities. In the previous editions the storage system was a standard shelf as used in Amazon warehouses, but this year teams can design the storage system themselves. This allows the storage system to be tuned to the robot, resulting in an integrated picking, stowing and storage system.

The second main change for this year is that only half of the competition set of items will be items from the training set. The other half will be new items that the teams get to see for 30 minutes immediately prior to the task attempts.

Our team for 2017 consists of members from the Netherlands and from Australia.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Competition days at the Amazon Picking Challenge 2016

Our first competition day started with a lot of work for our team. To compensate for inaccuracies in our object detection, we decided to implement force detection during pick-up and we adapted our pipeline to take an extra scan after picking up an item. This made picking of the items out of the bin a lot more robust, but we would lose a lot of time taking the extra scans of our objects.

 Our first challenge was the stow-task, where our robot had to pick up randomly placed items from a tote and place them in a shelf. After we mis-detected two objects, we decided to opt for a restart of the challenge. After the restart we did a lot better, we recognized one item based on our 2D-feature recognition algorithm and successfully placed it in the shelf. After that we also detected another item correctly, but ran out of time before we could stow it in the shelf. In the end we managed to end up in 12th place out of 16 teams.

For the second challenge, our robot had to perform the task of picking items from the shelf and placing them in the tote. Our challenge started a lot tougher, since all of the four items we could not pick up with our gripper were part of our assignment. We managed to detect, pick up and place two out of twelve items. However, one of these items was not picked up correctly, so we got some points deducted for that. In total, our team managed get to 12th place in this second challenge as well.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Busy first day in Leipzig

We've had a very busy first day setting up our system and getting it ready for the competition next friday. There were quite some issue with our camera calibration, but we were able to fix these with another lens.
In the meantime, Fabian has been 3D-printing some extra parts to make our cable guide more robust.

Tomorrow, we hope to fully test our pipeline with the new camera set-up so we'll be ready for the stowing task next friday!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Last preparations for Leipzig

With just a few days to go until the Amazon Picking Challenge in Leipzig, team Applied Robotics is getting ready for the challenge.

We have been upgrading our camera setup and our gripper. Also, last weeks we have been spending most of our spare time on improving our vision pipeline and implementing our tote-picking pipeline.

Even during our normal day jobs, our laptops have not been idle. They have been running tests to see if our motion planner returned collision-free paths.

Tuesday, we will depart for Leipzig and the competition will start on friday. Keep tuned for regular updates!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Team Applied Robotics wins Dutch derby in Denmark

During last week's RoboBusiness conference in Odense, Denmark, both Dutch teams exhibited their robot and prepared for the Amazon Picking Challenge by engaging in a friendly competition.

Team Applied Robotics arrived tuesday evening, the day before the conference started and we wasted no time setting up our system. Setting up our hardware was done in under 45 minutes, but our software was not yet fully tested and still needed quite some tweaking. Luckily wednesday was a relatively quiet day at the exhibition floor, so we could use our time testing the system and implementing a lot of improvements to our path planner.
Among other things, we are now able to publish collision objects and an octomap and our path planner is able to reliably plan the safest path in and out of the bins.

Friday was the day of our competition against Delft. We had agreed on a subset of items to be picked from the shelf and recruited an arbitrary judge to randomly place the items in the shelf. A large crowd had gathered to watch as the judge counted down until the start of our 10-minute match.

We were off to a quick start, and within 40 seconds we dropped our first item in the tote. Team Delft, however had some driver problems and had to opt for a restart. By the time Delft had restarted, we were already in a comfortable lead of 3 items. Picking up the rest of the items went smoothly, apart from the last one, which was placed in such a way our path planner could not find a collision-free path. Meanwhile, Delft was closing in on our score of 5 out of 6 items and deposited their third items with 2 minutes still on the clock. Luckily for us they did not manage to pick another item before the time ran out and therefore we won with 5 items against 3.

This challenge was a great opportunity for both teams to prepare for the real competition in Leipzig and we would like to thank team Delft for the great atmosphere and organization of this event.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Demonstration of Team Applied Robotics at RoboBusiness Europe

Team Applied Robotics was challenged by Team Delft to show off our robot at the RoboBusiness Europe Conference in Odense, Denmark. (1st of june untill the 3rd of june). Of course we were thrilled to take up this challenge, also because it is the best preparation we can get for the actual Amazon Picking Challenge in July.

Our two teams will be demonstrating our robot systems during the conference in a friendly competition. This will allow us to gauge the competition and fine-tune our strategy for the competition in Leipzig.

Read more about this event at:

We will keep you updated on the final preparations for this mini-competition in the next week!