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CyberRunner Completes Labyrinth in Just 14.48 Seconds!

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AI robot labyrinth record

AI robots are no longer non-athletic nerds who can only shine on the chess and go board. They now have human-like dexterity and can complete complex physical tasks. 

Lars-Goran Danielsson set the world record for completing a labyrinth in 2022 with an impressive time of 15.41 seconds. The Swede, who has been playing the game for 35 years, didn’t expect his record to ever be beaten, and certainly not by a robot. 

However, CyberRunner had other players. This AI-powered robot created by researchers at ETH Zurich breezed past Danielsson’s record, completing the game in 14.48 seconds. Incredibly, it only took CyberRunner six hours to learn the game. With such little practice, it was still able to shave 6% off the record and officially become the best labyrinth player on the planet.

What Is Labyrinth?

Labyrinth is a maze game where you maneuver a small metal ball through a maze filled with obstacles and traps. The game typically consists of a wooden or plastic board with a series of intricate pathways and holes, and players use knobs or tilting mechanisms to tilt the board and guide the marble toward the finish line.

To play, each player starts with their marble at the beginning of the maze. The objective is to navigate the maze’s twists and turns, avoid pitfalls and dead ends, and reach the designated endpoint as quickly as possible. Players must use delicate movements and precise timing to control the marble’s speed and direction, as even the slightest miscalculation can send the marble careening off course.

The game often features multiple levels of difficulty, with increasingly complex mazes that challenge players’ dexterity and spatial awareness. The winner is the player who successfully guides their marble to the finish line in the shortest amount of time. 

The classic maze game was released all the way back in 1950 by Swedish company BRIO, so it’s fitting that a Swedish player is the human world record holder. The Malmö based company is famous for its toy trains, particularly its Thomas the Tank Engine series.

How Did CyberRunner Break the Record?

CyberRunner is a Swiss robot that features a simple design consisting of a camera, two motors, and a computer. The motors act as the robot’s eyes, while the camera allows it to see, and the computer turns CyberRunner into a super genius. When these three components combine, the unremarkable robot suddenly becomes the best labyrinth player on the planet. 

While CyberRunner may be a fancy AI-powered robot, it still learns, just like us, via trial and error. However, it improves at a rapid pace and rarely makes the same mistake twice due to the power of model-based reinforcement learning. The robot can successfully predict the outcomes of numerous potential actions and find the optimal path.

The roboticists from ETH Zurich trained CyberRunner like a dog by providing praise and rewards when it successfully performed and negative feedback when it made mistakes. The AI-powered robot was able to store this feedback in its memory and incorporate the new information into its strategy. 

CyberRunner continually improved as it received more feedback and played more rounds. Unlike humans, its performance was consistently getting better without any setbacks. Before long, it was playing perfectly. It took the Swiss robot just 6.06 hours of labyrinth practice before it was ready to beat the record. CyberRunner ultimately completed the game in 14.48 seconds, just a little over one second quicker than previous record holder Lars-Goran Danielsson.

CyberRunner became bolder and bolder during the testing phase. The Swiss robot was constantly looking for shortcuts and ways to make the game easier. The researchers even had to code clearer rules to prevent the out-of-control robot from just bypassing sections of the maze. It’s fascinating that CyberRunner mimicked the very human desire to cheat and take advantage of lackadaisical rules.

CyberRunner is marching AI’s development forward. It’s proven that robots can beat humans when it comes to games that involve not only intelligence but also physical skills. The roboticists at ETH Zurich have made their research open-source so others can build on their breakthrough. We’re getting to a tipping point where AI robots are about to surpass humans in all skills and activities!

Read more: When Man Goes Against Machine: Introducing Cue6

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Cyprus Computer Society to Host Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad

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Minoan Robot Sports

The Robot Olympics is coming to Cyprus. The Cyprus Computer Society has added all kinds of fun sporting events to the Robotex festival. This new robot sports series, dubbed the Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad, will be held in Cyprus for the first time ever.

The Hellenic Educational Robotics Organisation and the Cyprus Computer Society are working together to put on an epic robot sporting spectacle. The competition will take place at the Sports Centre of the University of Cyprus on June 29 and 30, 2024.

Everyone is free to enter the event. All ages, including students and adults, are encouraged to join. It only costs €50 per team to participate. 

What Events Are in the Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad?

The Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad will feature robot sumo, car racing, maze escape events, line following challenges, shot put, archery, and more. The robots are going to be exhausted after being put through so many challenging competitions.

Robot sumo, or Pepe sumo, will be the most hotly contested event. This robot sport started in the 1980s in Japan and has now spread around the world with hundreds of thousands of participants.

In robot sumo, two autonomous robots are placed in a circle and then attempt to push each other out. Whoever remains in the circle wins, just like in sumo wrestling. Despite its simplicity, it actually requires some serious engineering skills. Participants need to design a robot that can not only locate the opponent but also detect the edge of the circle and avoid being pushed out!

The maze escape event will be another competition to keep an eye on. The robots will be dropped into a maze and use their sensors to figure out where they are and find a way out. Whichever robot can emerge from the maze the fastest wins. 

While the maze escape may seem like a fun game, it actually has some serious real-world applications as well. Roboticists are currently designing robots that they hope will one day perform search and rescue missions. Being able to navigate unknown and complex terrain is an essential skill these search and rescue bots need to master.

What Do the Winners of the Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad Get?

The winners will earn a spot at Robotex International in Estonia, which will be held in Tallinn from December 6 to 7, 2024. Again, they’ll get to put their robots on display against the best teams from all around Europe.

At Robotex International in Estonia, the winners will get to rub shoulders with industry leaders and potentially score internships. The latest robotics technology will be on display, and there’ll be a host of startups looking to recruit talent.

Diversity and Gender Equality a Cornerstone of Event in Cyprus 

The organizers of the Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad have made a concerted effort to get girls and women involved. There are also special events for school children hosted by the robots for an Inclusive Society organization. 

The school children will build Lego robots and compete in different challenges. There are categories for elementary and high school children. Apart from the robot building and sports competitions, there’ll also be interactive exhibitions and music performances, so attendees of all ages will enjoy the festival. The Cyprus Computer Society is doing a great job inspiring the next generation!

Cyprus’ President Believes in the Power of Robotics

The Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad is being sponsored by Nikos Christodoulides, the President of Cyprus. The event, organized by the Cyprus Computer Society, has managed to attract a number of major public and private sector sponsors.

The Bank of Cyprus and XM are sponsoring the Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad. Other big companies and institutions helping fund the event include Neapolis University Pafos, Hellas Sat and Huawei, ZEBRA Consultants, and Novatex Solutions Ltd.

We’re in the very beginning of robot sports. Events like the Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad give us a glimpse into the future, where the most famous athletes may not be human at all. Don’t be surprised if, in 30 years, more people will be tuning in to watch the Robot Olympics than the traditional Olympic Games! 

Read more: How Robots Can Positively Impact Sports

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Drone

From Passion to Full Time career — how Thomas Bitmatta changed his life — and so can you

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Changing Passion in a lucrative career

Thumbnail from YouTube interview with Thomas

There’s a moment in life when you stand at the edge of a decision. 

Before you, lies the comfortable, the known. Behind you, the whisper of what could be beckons — a call to adventure that won’t silence. For Thomas Bitmatta, known in the drone racing skies as BMS Thomas, that moment wasn’t just a fleeting thought. It was a crossroads. And his choice? To leap.

Thomas’s story isn’t one of overnight success or serendipitous luck. 

No. 

It’s a narrative hewn from the bedrock of passion, a relentless pursuit of mastery in the fast world of FPV (First-Person View) drone racing. In the grand scheme of life’s pursuits, Thomas chose a path less taken, and it has made all the difference.

The Ascent Begins

Imagine, for a moment, a hobby. 

Now watch as that hobby turns into an obsession, that obsession into a calling. This is the genesis of BMS Thomas’s journey from an intrigued enthusiast dabbling in drone flights to becoming a beloved icon in the global drone racing community.

“Today, I bring you the story of a dreamer who dared to chase his dreams across the skies.”

Thomas’s story began quietly in Australia, sparked by a simple YouTube video. 

Fast forward through years of tinkering, learning, and countless flights, and you find the moment where hobby crossed into destiny. Thomas didn’t just enter the world of drone racing; he redefined his life’s trajectory with a racing drone’s throttle.

Racing Against the Wind

In conversation, Thomas shared insights of his early days, reminiscing about the makeshift races in Melbourne, the allure of the Japan drone league, and his subsequent ascension to international fame. Each race, each flight was more than competition; it was a chapter in his ongoing tale of self-discovery and perseverance.

“It’s more than just flying,” Thomas reflected. “It’s about pushing boundaries, both the drones and my own.”

His journey highlights not merely the evolution of a racer but the transformation of a life through passion. Amidst talks of tracks, technicalities, and tournaments, there’s a subtle yet profound message: dedication, coupled with a love for one’s craft, can elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Navigating Through Turbulence

Yet, the path was not free of challenges. In his chase for passion, Thomas navigated through rough moments — balancing the demands of competitive racing with the rigours of building a career. Sponsorships didn’t come easy, nor did the recognition. It demanded more than skill; it required visibility, influence, and a deep-seated belief in the value of his pursuit.

“And then, something clicked. The right place, the right time, and suddenly, the support came.”

Thomas’s narrative serves as a beacon for anyone standing on the brink of pursuing their dream. It’s a testament to the truth that success, in any field, is a concoction of passion, persistence, and a willingness to forge ahead despite the odds.

Can you do it as well?

Today, BMS Thomas continues to race, not just as a competitor but as an inspiration. His journey tells us that to follow one’s passion is not to walk a path free of obstacles, but to navigate through storms, propelled by the heart.

“If there’s anything my journey has taught me,” Thomas said, “it’s that dreams are not just fleeting whims. They are the seeds of our future.”

See, life, much like drone racing, is not about the fear of falling. It’s about the thrill of flight, the pursuit of passions, and the unwavering courage to chase the horizon, no matter where it leads.

And so, to anyone teetering on the edge of decision, remember BMS Thomas. Remember that when passion takes flight, the sky’s not the limit — it’s just the beginning.

Watch the full interview with Thomas here

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The World Robot Championships Are Coming to the Netherlands in July

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World Robot Championship

Over 3,000 roboticists from 45 countries are heading to Eindhoven University of Technology from July 17 to 21, 2024, to take part in the World Robot Championship. They’ll put their autonomous robots to the test in a number of competitions, including soccer, rescue, and home based tasks. Organisers expect over 400 teams to participate and 50,000+ spectators.

The event isn’t just about intense competition. The goal of the World Robot Championships is to accelerate the development of affordable and reliable robot technology to aid in the betterment of society. There will be numerous workshops and demonstrations, including interactive displays for children. 

RoboCup Soccer

Soccer is by far the most popular event at the World Robot Championships. In this event, two teams of five robots play two 15-minute halves. They use a standard FIFA ball, and whoever scores the most goals during the allotted time period wins!

All the robots are 100% autonomous, the roboticists aren’t allowed to control the bot football players at all. They’re custom-designed and divided into different leagues based on weight and size.

The robots are decked out in sensors and powered by AI. They’re capable of playing strategically, identifying the ball, goal, teammates, and other opponents. Currently, the robots play soccer like three-year-olds, but it’s an amazing feat of engineering that, without assistance, they can dribble, shoot, and pass.

The founders of the organization have a very ambitious goal. They want to create a team of robots that can defeat the reigning human World Cup champions by 2050. We can’t wait to see the robot version of Messi effortlessly dribbling past the world’s best human players and slotting goals with ease.

RoboCup Rescue

One of the major potential use cases for autonomous robots is search and rescue. Robots can venture into environments that are too dangerous for human rescuers and, thanks to their superhero-level strength, save people from disastrous situations.

In the RoboCup Rescue, robots are tested on their ability to navigate challenging environments autonomously. They’re judged based on proficiency in performing complex tasks such as moving obstructing objects, turning off switches, and picking up and carrying away injured people.

This competition has been taking place for over 20 years. Even though progress is slow due to the sheer complexity involved, scientists hope that within 50 years, there will be robot first responders who can consistently outperform humans. 

RoboCup Home

Everyone dreams of having their army of robots that can effortlessly handle household chores. In this competition, you’ll get to see exactly how far away that reality is.

In the RoboCup Home, robots undertake a range of challenges, including rearranging messy rooms, serving breakfast, putting away groceries, and even welcoming guests. Roboticists believe that within a few years, their robots can help people with mobility issues. 

Again, the robots are fairly rudimentary, and we’re still a long way from a robot butler who can do the gardening, wash your clothes, and then whip up dinner. However, these autonomous robots are progressing very quickly. Within 40 years, we’ll probably have robot servants who can handle basic household chores.

The Netherlands Has Become a Hub for Autonomous Robots

The Netherlands may be a small country with just 17 million people, but they punch well above their weight when it comes to robots. Just in Eindhoven alone, there are five RoboCup teams, including the multiple-time world champion Tech United (TU/e). There is also RIF (Fontys) Robot Sports (VDL), RoboHub (Fontys), and Falcons (ASML).

Dutch Universities are at the forefront of AI and robotics. And it seems the next generation is in safe hands, as hundreds of Dutch high school students will also take part in competitions for juniors. Don’t be surprised if the next Telsa or Boston Dynamics comes out of the Netherlands in the next 10 years.

The World Robot Championships kicks off on July 17 and is taking place in Eindhoven at the University of Technology. You’ll get to see the latest autonomous robots and see them compete in soccer and domestic chore competitions and even perform search and rescue missions.

If you can’t attend, don’t worry; many of the events will be live-streamed and uploaded to YouTube. Don’t forget to check out the RoboCup, where miniature robots Messis and Ronaldos will be mesmerizing spectators all over the pitch!

Read more: Are We Entering a Robot Golden Age? NVIDIA’s CEO Thinks So!

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