Day 9 – ANA Avatar XPRIZE – Are we even allowed to go the finals…?

Today, we’ll have a guest writer! Gwenn, take it away! The big goal for today: Qualify so we are able to perform in the finals.

Today was a long day. The morning was fully in the sign of networking issues. We spent the morning trying to debug what was going wrong, until it turned out that almost all teams had the same problem — at least the ones who actually needed bandwidth.

So we went to the network tests that had been promised yesterday, in the final arena, where interference with other devices should not have been a problem and… But it was just as bad.

The team, getting ready for training!

By then, Stefano’s infamous self-control was about used up. Time to display his equally legendary Italian communication skills. He did a tour of the teams and proposed a simple solution to the organisation: provide us with a cat-6 network cable from the operator rooms to the arena. We’ll deal with the rest. About all teams reacted enthusiastically! The blue i-Botics shirts were almost replaced by red “robotics revolution” shirts…

But for some reason, the organization’s people in charge of the networking resisted getting completely bypassed. The qualification round got delayed until further notice. We were getting 15 Mbit bandwidth when we needed a consistent 50. So, we started compromising. Lower video resolution, limited framerate, … And we got our requirements down to 15Mbit (with an option to switch back to full-bandwidth mode).

By then, it was time for a run with a naive operator to practice the operator training. Douwe got his avatar created, stepped into the pod and aced it! Half an hour introduction, and on to training for the tasks. These tasks were successfully done and dusted in half an hour, with lots of feedback and debriefing in between. Let’s hope the judges will be equally gifted…

Douwe, before and after

And then we waited. Our planned qualification round was delayed until 18:15. Then 18:45. In the end, we moved in at 19:30 for a planned session at 21:00. The operator training went well, doing all the tasks successfully on our test rig. Around 22:20 it was our turn, but network problems plagued the performance, these were finally acknowledged, and a solution required changing all of the devices’ IP addresses. This resulted in problems with the audio. As a result another team got bumped ahead of us. New scheduled time, 23:00.

The organization is getting restless with the problem. Although we’re not in control of the issue, they’re hinting more and more that if we don’t fix that problem, we’ll might not have a chance to have a qualifying run…

It is 23:52, we’re still not on. Perhaps the team that got in front of us had network problems? Just a guess. My laptop’s battery is dying, I’m afraid this is it for tonight. To be continued, tomorrow…

Okay… Sorry Gwenn… I can’t leave the readers at home with that big of a climax…

After a nerve-wrecking 5 hours (so around 00:15) with an insane amount of debugging and trying, we actually got a very faint network running. By tuning the visual feed all the way down, it was just enough for the operator to go start the course. And because of the time pressure, we were not even able to start up the face of the avatar. Another twist! The operator (a judge from XPRIZE) was so tired after the long day, that he actually forgot one of the tasks, and needed to do an additional one: Drive backwards. But he succeeded and did a very decent run! And….

YEAHHHH! We qualified with a very decent score (we don’t know the competition yet… but their hinting on a high score)!!!
Tomorrow, we’ll know how late we’ll perform. We’ll let you know via the i-Botics website, don’t forget to subscribe to the live-stream!

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