The start of i-Botics XPRIZE
The journey of team i-Botics starts with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W). I&W met the XPRIZE organization at a conference and sees the ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition as a big opportunity to boost Dutch Avatar Technology. I&W sees a potential use case of Avatar mobility (see picture on the left) to lower carbon emissions from travel. They also see a lot of other potential use cases connected to other domains. Therefore, they reach out to other Ministeries and TNO to check if these parties also see the ANA Avatar XPRIZE as an interesting opportunity.
A plan is being formed
The outreach from the Ministery of Infrastructure and Water Management has been met with great enthusiasm. Multiple Dutch Ministeries have expressed interested, and TNO has indicated that the competition is in line with previous and future research of the i-Botics initiative. Via i-Botics, the University of Twente joins the call. Together, TNO and the University of Twente organize a first mayor brainstorm to discuss possible solutions for the ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition. The main technological focus points are selected: Universal control, fit-for-purpose modular avatars and a robotic twin. These focus points have been maintained throughout the entire project.
The official kick-off
Several months go by, in which the i-Botics XPRIZE team starts working on the initial concepts, and in which additional partners are searched for the competition. ETH Zürich (RSL), Haption, Halodi and Sensiks join the consortium, and now the team is completed. The official kick-off is organized in September 2019 in which the plans for the competition are concretized.
October 2019 - January 2020
Based on all the discussions, brainstorms and work of the previous months, the i-Botics XPRIZE team submitted its qualification submission in which they outlined their proposed solution. Part of the submission is the Qualification video (see the video to the right) in which the i-Botics team promoted its vision for the competition. A few months later (January 2020), XPRIZE announced that i-Botics was selected as one of the 77 qualified international teams from a field of 99 registered teams.
Meet the teams
The i-Botics team is invited by the ANA Avatar XPRIZE organization to do a shared webinar, in which the team introduces itself, and demonstrates one of the key elements within the ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition – the EVE robot (which is one of the Avatar solutions that the team uses in the competition, the other being the ANYmal from ETH Zürich).
The i-Botics team is invited to host a session together with the Dutch Ministeries about “Project Avatar” in the INNOvember event. This is a national monthlong event organized by the Dutch Ministeries celebrating and showcasing innovations in the Netherlands. The recording of the session can be found here. In the end, the i-Botics team actually wins the “Most innovative sessions” award.
Februari 2021 - April 2021
In Februari 2021, qualified teams completed their semifinalist selection submissions—the second round of technical submissions for evaluation by the judging panel in the ANA Avatar XPRIZE. Each team had to write a report detailing their avatar system’s capabilities and their development plans, accompanied by a demonstration video showcasing their technology in action. It was required that these demonstration videos were submitted unedited, to truly show the state of the current system. Team i-Botics submitted their written report, and also showcased controlling the EVE avatar over several hundred miles (from the Netherlands to Norway). An impresssion of that video can be found here.
In April 2021, XPRIZE announced that team i-Botics was selected as one of 38 semifinalist teams.
As part of the semifinals, teams had to submit a semifinals verification video. The video was part of the scoring of the semifinals. Again, the teams had to showcase their system in an unedited video.
Team i-Botics used this opportunity to showcase one of their unique capabilities which is somewhat outside of scope for the competition itself: universal control over fit-for-purpose avatars, anywhere in the world. From the Netherlands, the i-Botics’ operator controlled the ANYmal in Zürich, and afterwards switched to EVE in Norway in a matter of seconds!
Semifinals - The first attempt
In September 2021, the ANA Avatar XPRIZE organization offered a first semifinals option for teams. However, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions the team members themselves were not allowed to travel to the US for the semifinals (the avatar system and the operator pod did travel to the US!). A very unfortunate event for the team… However, the XPRIZE organization already promised a second option for teams that suffered under the travel ban.
Semifinals - The second attempt
The second stage of the semifinals was meant for teams that could not go to the US because of COVID regulations, which included team i-Botics. This round, the jury members visited the labs of the teams.
At TNO Soesterberg in March of 2022, the ANA Avatar XPRIZE judging panel physically conducted semi-finals testing of Team i-Botics’ system in real-world scenarios, such as an avatar-human duo who cooperate to put a puzzle together. Team i-Botics’ system passed the tests with flying colors.
Team i-Botics was now one of the 20 finalist teams!
European Robotics Forum
Team i-Botics hosted a workshop and a stand on the exhibition floor during ERF 2022. During the workshop, the team took attendees on an 80-minute deep-dive into Avatar technology. And on the exhibition floor, the team demonstrated the avatar systems, and let users interact with the robot.