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Autonomous Boats Take On Obstacle Courses, Fake Fires in RoboBoat Competition

Student-designed robotic boats faced obstacle courses, fake fires, and wayward swans in the 2011 RoboBoat competition

1 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

Somehow, it’s been an entire year since the 2010 RoboBoat Competition. Rather than letting all of those industrious teams improve their robots to be better able to complete the existing course, the organizers added a whole bunch of practically impossible new challenges. Practically impossible, sure, but also pretty sweet, since they involve using deployable rovers to retrieve objects and autonomous water cannons to put out (fake) fires.

You may be wondering why such seemingly trivial tasks like navigating between different colored buoys is so tricky, but remember that this is all taking place on water, which is covered in nasty things like reflections and waves and hostile swans. So whenever the sun angle changes (an event that tends to happen quite often throughout the day), everything looks slightly different for the boats’ cameras, sensors, and vision algorithms.

Anyway, luckily for you there’s some excellent video recap of all three days of the event, so you can ignore my blathering and just watch things unfold for yourself. Swans beware!

[ RoboBoat 2011 ]

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