Intern PR2 Challenge 2009
Above: Team Won's PR2 gets ready (L). Willow Garage CEO Steve Cousins and Advisory Board Member Larry Page get a kick out of their waiter (R).
Last week we held Willow Garage's inaugural Intern PR2 Challenge. We divided the interns into teams and presented them with this year's challenge: use a PR2 to serve drinks to judges positioned around the cafeteria and clean up their mess. Teloperation was allowed, though each team would be scored on technical merit. The teams were given 72 hours, starting Friday afternoon, to build and test their PR2 waiters.
On the following Monday, the teams were each given 20 minutes to run the challenge. What resulted far exceeded our expectations. Not only had they achieved the objectives of the challenge, but they had taken the time to create entertaining presentations that demonstrated great service quality. Team Two put together a User's Manual (see below) that described their system in detail. Team Won followed a partly improvisational script that had the audience frequently laughing.
While both teams mixed autonomy and teloperation in their final systems, including sophisticated motion-planning algorithms for grasping the bottles, they took very different approaches overall. Team Won focused on humor-driven human-robot interaction, using pre-recorded sayings to create a live theatrical performance with the PR2. Team Two focused more on autonomy and created a Web application on a touch-screen phone to enable the judges to place their orders. Both teams also put together their own interfaces for controlling the PR2 behind the scenes: Team Two used a GUI to switch between various goals while Team Won used a LISP-based scripting system. Their approaches taught us a lot about how we can extend our codebase and even gave us some new packages, like an Ogg-Theora-based streaming video package for ROS.
Our judges -- CEO Steve Cousins, Founder Scott Hassan, HRI reseacher Leila Takayama, and Advisory Board Member Larry Page -- had a hard time judging a winner. Both teams took such vastly different approaches to solving the challenge that they had to call it a tie! This was fun and sucessful event that we plan to hold in coming summers.
-- Melonee Wise