Delft wins picking contest

A team of engineers from Delft won the Amazon Picking Challenge of RoboCup 2016, an international robot competition held from June 29 to July 3, 2016 in Leipzig.

Team Delft was one of 16 finalists for the Amazon Picking Challenge. (Photo: TU Delft)

“This achievement took dedication and hard day-and-night-work,” said Professor Robert Babuska, the Scientific Director of TU Delft Robotics Institute, in an email to all of his colleagues. “We are extremely proud.”

During the challenge, robots autonomously retrieved many different kinds of products from a container and put them on shelves (the ‘stow task’). They also had to do it the other way around; grasp items from the shelves and bring them in a container (the ‘pick task’). For both tasks, the robots need to deal with complicated automation problems: handling variety and operating in an unstructured environment.

This year’s picking task was more difficult than the 2015 task, with denser bins, occluded items, and products that are more difficult to see and grasp.

Team Delft won the stow task finals by collecting 214 points. Second came NimbRo Picking (186 points) and the team from MIT ended third (164 points).

The pick task finals proved to be nerve wracking. Both Team Delft and the Japanese team PFN collected 105 points. The competition was so close that the judges had to resort to the second tie-breaker using video replay to determine the winner. Delft achieved their first pick in a mere 30 seconds, beating PFN’s 1:07 time.

Kanter van Deurzen from the company Delft Robotics is one of the team leaders. His team won because of thorough preparation, he said in a press release. “We have built a very robust system, which hardly makes mistakes when picking items.”

Team Delft was one of 16 finalists for the Amazon Picking Challenge, and is a collaboration between TU Delft Robotics Institute and the company Delft Robotics. The team built a flexible robot system based on industry standards. The system is equipped with a robot arm with seven degrees of freedom, 3D cameras, and an in-house developed gripper.