Georgia Tech Team Wins Mobile Manipulation Challenge at ICRA 2019

Attendees at the ICRA 2019 event watch the FetchIt! Mobile Manipulation Challenge. Image: Fetch Robotics

May 22, 2019      

MONTREAL – A team from the Georgia Institute of Technology was named winner of the FetchIt! Mobile Manipulation Challenge, held over the past three days at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation. For successfully assembling three kits in 39 minutes, the team earned a prize package that included a Fetch Mobile Manipulation Research Robot – a $100,000 value – along with other prizes from co-sponsors.

The competition was designed to advance the state of technology for applying mobile manipulators, in which robotic arms are fitted onto autonomous mobile robots, for use in manufacturing and related applications. Some industry watchers say that mobile manipulation is one of the “holy grail” in robotics, in which a single robot can grab and object from a shelf or bin, and then deliver it on a mobile platform.

Tasks across manufacturing

Four research teams competed in the event, in which teams were asked to use a Fetch Robotics Mobile Manipulator robot to navigate to stations in a work cell, pick up items with the arm, insert them into a machining tool, place the machined items into kits, and then transport the finished kit to an inspection station and drop-off location. Fetch Robotics, which was the primary sponsor of the challenge, said this was “the first competition that encompasses the full range of activities that are commonly found in manufacturing environments.”

FetchIt Mobile Manipulation Challenge Georgia Tech

Team DeRAILers from the Georgia Institute of Technology won the FetchIt! Mobile Manipulation Challenge. Image: Fetch Robotics

Teams in the challenge included:

  • Team Columbia: Columbia University, led by Professor Peter K. Allen, PhD, and Neil Chen
  • Team DeRAILers: The Georgia Institute of Technology, led by Associate Professor Sonia Chernova, Ph.D., and David Kent
  • Team RoboHawks: The University of Massachusetts Lowell, led by Professor Holly Yanco, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Reza Ahmadzadeh, Ph.D., and Zhao Han
  • Team Fido: Independent competitors, Thomas Butterworth and Ben Jarvhi

“I’d like to congratulate all the teams for their accomplishments during the course of this challenge,” said Russell Toris, Director of Robotics at Fetch Robotics. “When setting out to create this challenge, we knew we wanted to keep it grounded to a real-word scenario. Interacting with machinery that is designed to be used by humans is no easy task. Piece-picking, kitting, and countless other tasks are going to require state-of-the-art perception, motion planning, navigation, and safety all seamlessly working together. The teams’ performance this week indicate that they represent some of the world’s leading experts in these skills.”

“We’re very excited to have won the FetchIt! challenge,” said Georgia Tech’s Sonia Chernova. “It has allowed us to validate our research code in a complex domain. We can’t wait to continue our work with our newest Fetch robot.”

Added Holly Yanco from UMass Lowell: “Everyone from Fetch has been helpful and very encouraging. This has been an amazing experience and the tasks used for the competition form a great basis for our ONR MURI research.”

In addition to the Fetch Robot, the Georgia Tech team was awarded a MRS1000 4-layer LiDAR sensor (provided by sponsors SICK and EandM), along with 7,000 “Schunk Bucks” by sponsor Schunk. The UMass Lowell team, which placed second, was awarded the MRS1000, a TiM561 LiDAR laser scanner, and 5,000 Schunk Bucks. All the other teams were given the TiM561 laser scanner as well.