The development of an Avatar system is one of the core objectives of the iCub Team research activities. The ANA Avatar XPRIZE was a unique occasion to test and benchmark the team’s research outcomes.
The iCub team’s first effort, toward the competition, was to migrate the algorithms and technologies from the avatar iCub 2.X to a newly developed robotic avatar iCub3. Since then, the team had constantly pursued an increase in the performance of both the avatar and operator sides of the system. The team managed to improve the dynamism of the robotic avatar, while increasing its overall robustness. On the operator side, the team was integrating a variety of technologies, aimed at achieving a lightweight, intuitive, wearable avatar system.
During the challenge, after accomplishing very efficiently and effectively the first two tasks, the operator was supposed to navigate through the main entrance door and accomplish the long walk. Unfortunately, this did not happen and the robot hit the door by falling consequently: just another step on the side was missing. The operator was chosen randomly and assigned to us 75 minutes before the run and trained for about 40 minutes, so no responsibility shall be attributed to them.
Hence, we are indeed proud of the iCub3 Avatar System, which was able in our labs to accomplish all 10 tasks, from mission engagement to texture recognition using the iCub skin. Unfortunately, we could not show all the system features during the finals because of the fail in the first day.
At the end, our four year adventure finishes with the following ranking: 2nd place at the semifinals and - because of the fail in the first day - 14th at the finals. As a side note, starting from the initial 100 teams, iCub was the 1st on the ranking in the specific category of walking humanoids. We knew that wheeled robots would be faster on a flat, even and regular test course, but we are proud of not having given up our legged locomotion feature, thus taking the associated risks.