Friday, 25 July 2014

The RoboCup 2014 Final!

Guest blog Dr Daniel Polani, Adaptive Systems Research Group

We had played seven matches against the likes of Hamburg, Brazil and Indonesia and it was now time to face Japan’s CIT Brains in the final.

It was tough as the Japanese team took the lead scoring three goals and we thought it was going to be a walkover of the Germany vs. Brazil kind. However, our robots fought back and we managed to score twice before the whistle blew. It seemed that our robots were better on the long run and had the game gone on longer, we might have equalized. But it was an exciting game, with a final score of 2:3 to the new world champions.

We are delighted to have got to the final, which follows on from our 2nd place at the RoboCup German Open (April 2014) and 3rd place at the RoboCup Iran Open (April 2014).  I’d like to thank everyone for their support and I am delighted to say that Bold Hearts is Vice World Champion in RoboCup Kidsize Football!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Hot off the press! Bold Hearts through to the Final of RoboCup 2014!

Guest Blog by Dr Daniel PolaniAdaptive Systems Research Group

Bold Hearts just before the semi-final
News just in - the University's Bold Hearts team has just won a place in the final of the RoboCup 2014 World Cup!

Our semi-final at the start of Day 4 was against EROS, a strong team from Indonesia.

After only 40 seconds, we scored the first goal, then a nicely placed second goal from the right flank. But EROS came back with their powerful kick, and scored a goal from a distance.

The rest of the game looked more like wrestling than football, as our Bold Hearts robots became "tired".  We're not clear what the reason is yet, whether it's failing batteries, or loosened screws.

Bold Hearts with EROS, their opponent
in the semifinals at the end of the game
But this is definitely a hardware league, and the wear-and-tear during a single game is incredible with larger robots falling on our cute tiny Darwin robots all the time.

But the Bold Hearts stood up to EROS well enough, and managed to defend the score.

The final score was 2 - 1 to Bold Hearts!

And now we are in the FINALS of the RoboCup 2014 Kidsize Humanoid League!!

Bold Hearts robots in Brazil - through to the semi-finals!

Guest Blog by Dr Daniel PolaniAdaptive Systems Research Group

Fantastic news from Brazil!  Bold Hearts, the University of Hertfordshire's robot football team, progressed through round 2 of the RoboCup World Cup, to the quarter finals, then winning that game to make it through to the semi-finals!

Bold Hearts in Brazil
The first two of 3 the games of the second round were played on Day 2 of the RoboCup competition.

We won our first game 3 – 1 against RoboFEI-HT, from Brazil.  And then lost 0 - 4 against CIT, from Japan, who was placed 4th last year.  And, amazingly, we only scored one own goal!

Perhaps we could have scored a goal for ourselves if the ball had not rolled away from our robot due to the uneven surface of the field - so the result is much less clear than it looks.

This was an encouraging result for Bold Hearts, as it means that we are really edging towards being able to match the best opposition. In fact, we thought this game looked more like real football rather than glorified billiard with opponent obstacles.  CIT was a very strong team - but we still see potential for improvement for Bold Hearts.

Our third and final deciding game of round 2, was played on Day 3 of the competition against Hanuman KMUTT, a team from Thailand.

We needed to win this game to progress through to the quarterfinals – and we worked through the night on our robots before going out onto the field to meet the Hanuman KMUTT team.

All the hard work overnight paid off as we beat Hanuman KMUTT 3:1  - and yes, yet again, we scored all the goals! So Bold Hearts were through to the quarterfinals, also played on Day 3.

The quarterfinal match against MRL, from Iran, was a highly contested, tight game with lots of man-to-man (or in reality robot-to-robot!) fighting.

But our opponent, MRL, was experiencing similar problems as us - with their robots sometimes turning to face in the direction of their own goal.

We ruthlessly exploited the opportunity, but they came back with some dangerous attacks - one particular one was made easier for them because our goalie was taken out for being classified as an "incapable goalie".  The goalie must react when the ball is nearby, and our one didn't.  So MRL went on to score an easy goal! MRL robots are faster than ours but sometimes they overshoot...

But the crowd cheered for Bold Hearts.  And the final result was 3 - 2 to Bold Hearts.

We are delighted that Bold Hearts is through to tomorrow’s semi-finals, on Day 4 of the RoboCup competition!!

Wish us luck in the semi-final and that we score plenty of goals – in the opponent’s goal of course!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Did Bold Hearts make it through the RoboCup knock-out stage on Day 2?

Guest Blog by Dr Daniel PolaniAdaptive Systems Research Group

Day 2 at the RoboCup 2014 World Cup in Brazil started with an intermediate knock-out match with our old friends the Hamburg Bit-Bots from Germany.  This game will decide if Bold Hearts will continue in the competition or not. We were looking forwards to this match, but had hoped it would be later in the competition. And as is tradition whenever we play, we expect to have a long and heated set of penalty shots!

We know Bit-Bots well, and they fielded an interesting, self-built team.

After a nerve-wrecking game, it was 2 - 2 at the end of full time.  Then in extra time, we scored twice, winning this game 4 – 2 and going through to round 2!  But Bit-Bots had some near misses!

And yes – you know it already - every single goal in our game was scored by Bold Hearts. So it proves that we are a good goal scoring team!  Just not always in our opponent’s goal!

Our goal-detection system proved to be a problem. It had worked well in the trials and preparations before travelling to Brazil. However, there were a lot of visitors in the RoboCup venue on Day 2 of the competition, which may have changed the lighting a lot during the games - many of them were using cameras with flash during the games.

In addition, it did not help that one assistant referee was "streaking" – but not in the sense that we may know from other sports!

The assistant referee was walking barefoot which is strictly forbidden during games, as feet and legs often look like balls in the robot’s colour detection.   Black trousers and covers were only put on after threats by the main referee.

Anyway, great news that Bold Hearts is through to the next round-robin part of the competition  - round 2.  So Bold Hearts has more games to look forwards to.

And we are further than ever before in at the RoboCup Kidsize World Championship!

Day 1 results from our Bold Hearts robots at the World Cup in Brazil!

Guest Blog by Dr Daniel PolaniAdaptive Systems Research Group

Our first day of matches at the World Cup was filled with all the excitement that typically accompanies the Bold Hearts to the RoboCup!

Bold Hearts in Brazil
As our first match in Brazil loomed, with only two hours to go, and with around 200 wifi networks detectable at the field, our robots could not communicate with each another nor could they receive instructions from the referee's system.

This was solved shortly before kick off when one of the network engineers increased the power output of our field's access point, but by this stage we no longer had enough time to run all the tests we needed to run before the start of the game. So our first game against TH-MOS started and semi-organised chaos ensued.  The halls were quite dark and the goals difficult to recognise for the robots – so we had problems in goal detection.

At half time we were losing 2 - 0, but we did manage to score in the second half, losing 2 – 1 at the end of full time. Our problem of “Own Goalitis” struck again – as we had scored all three goals of the game – which was great for TH-MOS who didn’t manage to score goals for themselves and yet came out as the winners!

Fields at the RoboCup World Cup in Brazil
Four hours later we returned to the same field to try again, this time to compete with the NUbots, an Australian team that has been champions in previous years. Fortified from our recent experience and improved software, the Bold Hearts made a much stronger appearance and won 4 - 1. We again scored all five goals!

Overall we're really happy with scoring eight goals in two matches, losing one game and winning one.  Although we would have liked all the goals to have been scored in the opposition’s goal!

But Bold Hearts is through to the next stage – an intermediate knock-out match with our old friends the Hamburg Bit-Bots!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Perceptions of Pregnancy: From Medieval to Modern

A guest blog by Dr Ciara Meehan, School of Humanities
On 16 July, more than sixty delegates attended the three-day Perceptions of Pregnancy conference, organised by Dr Jennifer Evans and Dr Ciara Meehan of the School of Humanities.

Ciara Meehan (left),
Jennifer Evans (right) & Joanne Bailey
The aim of the conference was to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to hold an international and interdisciplinary conversation on fertility, pregnancy and childbirth from the medieval to the modern. The broad timespan allowed for a careful consideration of continuities and changes throughout history.  Speakers came from institutions in Britain, Ireland, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Canada and the United States.  From Anna Andreeva’s (University of Heidelberg) paper on medieval Japan to Julia Allison’s (University of Nottingham) on Rural East Anglia, the content of the papers also covered a broad geographical span.  We heard from historians, midwives, curators, political geographers, literary critics and scholars working on visual culture.

The conference covered everything from conception to the birthing experience.  Particularly striking was the paper from Anija Dokter (University of Cambridge) that featured sound-recordings of childbirth. The darker side of pregnancy was also explored and day two, for example, featured a panel on seduction, violence and supernatural hazards.

Conference delegates
Sylvia Murphy Tighe (Trinity College Dublin) presented some of the findings from an on-going study with Irishwomen who have or are currently concealing their pregnancy.  Moreover, while pregnancy is associated with women in the popular mindset, speakers such as Jennifer Evans (University of Hertfordshire) and Justin Dolan Stover (Idaho State University) sought to locate the man in the narrative of pregnancy and childhood.

There were a number of timely contributions.  Elaine Farrell (Queen’s University, Belfast) and Ciara Meehan (University of Hertfordshire) explored the stigma of being an unmarried mother.  Both made reference to the recent scandal in Ireland, which attracted international attention following revelations that the bodies of up to 800 babies had been uncovered at the site of a former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway.  With recent campaigns for gender equality in both the British and Irish parliaments, Claire McGing’s (NUI Maynooth) paper, which gave recommendations on facilitating parenting for politicians, was particularly relevant.

Ciara Meehan (left),
Jennifer Evans (right) & Elaine Farrell
The conference was book-ended by two exhibitions. The first was curated by Liz Burns of the Burns Archive in New York and featured images of deceased children, sometimes posed with their parents. The practice of post-mortem photography was common in the Victorian era as an act of memorialisation.  The second exhibition gave a sneak-peak of Ellen duPont’s forthcoming gift-book for the ‘thinking mother’, which will contain a collection of forty historical images of pregnant women, accompanied by quotations, to coincide with each week of pregnancy.

Conference outcomes will include an edited collection and a special edition of Women’s History Magazine.  Although the event is now over, the conference blog will remain active. Another aim of the conference was to build networks and facilitate further conversations, and we see the blog as an excellent forum for doing so.  We hope to develop it into a space for the community of researchers working on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences to engage, exchange ideas and highlight their work.

The conference was generously supported by the School of Humanities at the University of Hertfordshire, the Social History Society and the Royal Historical Society.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

University showcases research at the Royal Society Summer ScienceExhibition

Dr Edwin Hirst and Dr Richard Greenaway 
from the University’s Centre for Atmospheric 
and Instrumentation Research building the 
instrument that will go on NASA’s aircraft
Imagine sitting in a jet air-liner looking out of the window and trying to count and measure individual particles as small as bacteria in the clouds as they fly by at hundreds of miles an hour…

This is what Aerosol Ice Interface Transition Spectrometer (AIITS) does and it is on show this week (1-6 July) at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition  - which showcases the most exciting and cutting-edge UK science and technology.

The AIITS mounted on the NASA aircraft
In order to help understand the processes that are taking place in our climate system, scientists need to have detailed information about the sizes, shapes and abundance of the microscopic particles (ice crystals, droplets, dusts, etc.) that are present in the atmosphere. These particles are measured in situ by flying an instrument through the atmosphere and AIITS is one such instrument.

As the particles enter the instrument, they pass through a beam of light - scattering the light into complex scatter patterns. The scatter pattern depends on the shape, size and orientation of the particles and is like a thumbprint which can be used to classify or even identify the particles.

Light scatter patterns from various particles in the atmosphere
Led by Professor Paul Kaye, Director of Research in the University’s Science and Technology Research Institute, researchers from the Centre for Atmospheric and Instrumentation Research (CAIR) will be demonstrating some of their airborne particle analysis instruments as part of the ‘Tropical Storms' exhibit.

Tropical storms in the West Pacific play a crucial role in the Earth's climate system. Starting above some of the warmest waters, they carry sufficient energy to punch through the boundary that separates the troposphere, the lowest layer in the atmosphere, from the stratosphere above. In doing so, they reach as high as 20km and carry air up from the Earth’s surface. Chemicals in the air reaching the stratosphere can lead to ozone depletion.

The exhibit is based on an atmospheric research campaign headed up by the University of Cambridge and involving the University of Hertfordshire and also NASA, USA.

The week-long Exhibition starts today (Tuesday 1 July) and is arguably the most prestigious of its type in the UK, attracting over 10,000 visitors; including secondary school students, policy makers, MPs, leaders of industry, and representatives from funding agencies.  For more information, visit the Royal Society’s Exhibition website.