Seven autonomous robots from three European countries will compete in endurance in the 2014 Robot Marathon

Robot marathon kicks off to celebrate European Robotics Week

Seven intelligent mobile robots designed to operate for long periods of time will pit their abilities against each other in a five-day marathon celebrating European Robotics Week.

Developed as part of the EU-funded STRANDS project, launched last year, the seven robots named Bob, Karl, Linda, Rosie, Lucie, Wermer and Wowbagger2, won’t meet face to face for the challenge but will stay mostly in their domestic labs across Europe.

The goal for each robot would not only be to keep going for as long as possible but also to cover the largest possible distance without human intervention.

Somewhat resembling Pixar’s famous wall-E, the robots are part of the efforts to create fully autonomous intelligent machines that would be able to operate in real environments without expert supervision.

This year’s event follows a similar race last year, won by the robot named Linda from the University of Lincoln, UK.

The robots were sent out at 10am GMT on Monday. During the competition the robots are allowed to ask for assistance from passers-by if they get stuck and will be able to recharge themselves if their batteries get low. However, if the robot is not able to resolve the situation itself and requires the help of its creators, its accumulated distance and time will be reset.

The public can monitor the competition’s progress via the marathon’s website and visit some of the machines at their venues at British universities of Lincoln, Birmingham and Leeds, Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and RWTH Aachen University, and at Austria’s Vienna University of Technology and Graz University of Technology.

The competition will end on Friday 28 November at 4pm GMT.

Autonomous intelligent robots represent a major step in the development of robotic systems. Most of the existing technology is remotely controlled by humans, which limits the usability due to telecommunication constraints and requirements for permanent human supervision.

The STRAND project research partners hope to be able to deploy their robots in the next few years in care and security applications and real industrial settings.

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