Microsoft recently announced the launch of the RoboChamps Urban Challenge, sponsored by KIA Motors. Similar to the real-world DARPA Urban Challenge, participants will be tasked with programming a robotic car to navigate to a series of checkpoints in an urban environment. RoboChamps Urban Challenge has one major difference – it’s based entirely in simulation. Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 provides a rich physics-enabled simulation environment and allows developers to program robots using .NET languages. The combination of the two removes significant barriers to entry for would be robotics programmers. RoboChamps, built on top of Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008, is a simulated robotics league that provides participants with simulated robots and immersive 3-D environments.
Through their sponsorship, KIA Motors provides the RoboChamps community with two significant benefits. The first is an added level of realism. KIA Motors has provided access to models of five of their popular car models – Soul, Borrego (also known as ‘Mohave’) SUV, refreshed Magentis (‘Optima’) and the all-new Cerato (‘Spectra’). These models have all been turned into simulated robotic cars, each one loaded with a series of simulated sensors. Each car includes two web cameras, a laser range finder, a GPS unit, and a number of bumpers that participants can interact with. Using this sensor data, participants must navigate a simulated, autonomous robot car past a series of KIA dealerships in the virtual city, while obeying traffic lights, avoiding collisions with other autonomous vehicles and of course staying on the road!
In addition, the sponsorship has also provided the largest prizes in the history of RoboChamps. For the top entry, KIA Motors will be providing a real car, a KIA Soul, which has a retail value of US$15,000. They will also be providing a $10,000 cash prize for second place, and a $5000 prize for third place.
Software, challenge kits, training materials, and a video podcast focused on the Urban Challenge can all be found on the website: www.robochamps.com.