BEAM Robot Games

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[edit] Introduction to the Games

NOTE: the material in this section has been derived from the
BEAM Robotics Philosophy page that was part of the original
LANL BEAM website,
an archived copy of which can be found > HERE <.

The idea behind establishing the BEAM Robot Games was to improve robo-genetic stock through stratified competition, while having an interesting time in the process.

The science behind BEAM stemmed from the then current concepts in artificial intelligence (AI), artificial life (ALife), evolutionary biology, and genetic algorithms. It seemed that building large complex robots wasn't working very well, so Mark Tilden figured “why not try to evolve them from a lesser to a greater ability as mother nature has done with biologics?” The problem was that such a concept required self-reproducing robots which wouldn't be possible to build (if at all) for years to come. The solution, was to view a human being as a robot's way of making another robot. So an annual competition, where experimenters could let their creations interact in real situations, was created. This would encourage machine evolution, and allow it to be observed as it happened.

Mark described this as “robogenetics through robobiologics.

Thus the BEAM Robot Games were founded not simply to be a series of technological competitions, but to provide a chance for [[robot] enthusiasts to present their designs to each other, the press, and the public. In an open forum of this type, anyone who was interested in the field of Alife robotics could compete, compare and exchange ideas. Any and every robot would be considered so long as it did not come exclusively from a kit or store. Robots of similar ability would be pitted against each other in graded competitions, where they would be judged on sophistication of behavior, novelty of design, efficiency of power source, and quality of hardware innovation.

Basically, if you built it, were welcome to show it.

Everyone from grade-school closet mad-scientists to legitimate university researchers could participate. The only element required was a fascination with seeing something that you had created move by itself and how it compared to others. This would hopefully spark motivation in many fields of Science and Engineering, in all ages, genders, and for all purposes. At the Robot Games, bizarre ideas were to be encouraged, in the hopes that new "artificial life forms" would emerge as time went by.

One of the main aims of the Robot Games] was and is to get more people interested in actual robotics rather than computer simulations. Thus BEAM, which was founded by Mark W. Tilden while at the University of Waterloo (Canada), was created to allows first time enthusiasts to get started easily. By building one or more self-contained creatures, anyone can gain the confidence and ability to build a wider range of robotic devices, allowing them to compete in more challenging BEAM events, and advancing the evolutionary aspects of their robotic designs.

Building robots can be difficult, so the BEAM Games were designed as a forum where designers don't so much match wits against each other, but against the natural (and relentless) perversity of the physical universe. Life is hard, but Alife is harder (depending, of course, on what you like to build with).

Mark’s intention was that the games feature an ever expanding number of formal competitions ranging in difficulty from simple to complex. To this end, he wrote a Guide containing competition rules, "get-started" instructions, background discussion into the science of artificial life, and enough information for anybody who might want to, to run their own BEAM Robot Games.

The 1995 BEAM Games consisted of 14 events. As well, competitions are often created on the fly as devices of like ability compete and display their capabilities. Previous events along this line have included manipulator, robovision, and robo-dog events. So we can prepare judges and resources in advance, all competitors are asked to fill out the robot "behavior" section of an entrance form and more competitions can then be run based on the variety of robots that do show up. Those in a class by themselves are still eligible for major awards, and everybody would be included in the subsequent BEAM Games portfolio, documentaries, and videos.

The Games stress innovation rather than competition. No demand is made for solutions to be precisely engineered. Instead designs are tested and observed to see how well they perform in a general environment. Consequently, special consideration is given for robots which run on solar power or are solar power assisted; self-contained artificial life forms over battery eating remotes.

Such designs take into consideration environmental issues of battery wastage, reusable materials and technological waste (it's amazing to think that we take such efforts to recycle glass and cardboard, but think nothing of throwing away a VCR because it has a broken key). It is not essential that robot devices be solar, but as the raw materials (dead calculators, dead portable cassette players, dead radios, etc.) are so plentiful, designers can sometimes put together BEAM like designs without spending any money at all, while at the same time recycling dead electronics that would otherwise sit around until thrown out.

All venues are open to anyone who is interested, young or old, so grab a soldering iron, raid the junk pile, build your own entry and bring it to a BEAM competition. Doing so might even be good for some extra credit in science, electronics, or any other related course. Besides, it's neat to build a device which will move for years with no off switch.

[edit] Individual Events

This section contains a list and general description of just some of the events that have, at one time or another, been part of the BEAM Robot Games. They are arranged, more or less, in order of increasing complexity. Clicking on the heading of any particular event will allow you to view the full set of rules for that event.

The General Rules for the BEAM robot Games can be viewed by clicking > HERE <.

NOTE: The material presented here has been derived from the original events list page that was part of the now defunct LANL BEAM site.
An archived copy of that page can be found > HERE <.

Also Note: Not every event listed here has been a part of every BEAM Robotics Competitions
and in all probability not every event listed will be a part of any current or future competitions

[edit] Solaroller

Robots are limited to a maximum solar cell size of 1/2 x 2-1/2 inches (1.25 square inches or 8.06 square cm) and must be self starting. Competitors race one meter in full sunlight (or 500 Watt halogen equivalent) along 6 inch wide lanes. Round robin eliminations used, with the fastest finisher winning each heat.

There are two classes under this heading.

[edit] Class A:

Racing occurs on a sheet of level glass.

[edit] Class B:

Racing occurs on equal but rough terrain.

[edit] Photovore

Robots should be solar powered, goal seeking and must fit within a 7 inch cube. The robots face obstacles, challenges, and other robots over a 30 hour period in a closed arena called a "Robot Jurrasic Park". Robots that demonstrate the best survival, exploration, confrontation, speed, and power efficiency (after review of photos and a stop-motion video) will be declared the winners.

[edit] Aquavore

Robots should be solar powered, must fit within a 7 inch cube. It must be able to swim from one side to the other of a 55 gallon fish tank (approximately one meter across). A six inch high wall is fixed in place halfway across that tank that each competing robot must either swim under or get over (crawl, jump or fly) to reach the finish line.

[edit] Robot Limbo Race

A self-contained robot having a maximum dimension of 7 inches square by 1 cm high, must traverse a simple maze in a race against another competitor in an similar lane. The flattest and fastest robots win. Solar power is optional but recommended.

[edit] Rope Climbing

A self starting robot must climb up a 1 meter rope and then climb down. The robot that gets from top to bottom in the quickest time wins.

[edit] High/Long Jump

There are two classes under this heading.

[edit] Class A:

A robot, no larger than 1 square foot, must loft its entire mass (jump) into the air. Each competitor is allowed up to three attempts, but is limited to 1 (optional) battery.

[edit] Class B:

A robot, no larger than 1 square foot, must loft its entire mass (jump) forward. Each competitor is allowed up to three attempts, but is limited to 1 (optional) battery.

[edit] Legged Race

Legged robots compete against each other in distance, progress, and ability challenges over various rough but equal terrains. The robots are compared on the basis of

  • Their ratio of size
  • Number of motivating limbs
  • Lift/drive capabilities
  • Dynamic versus static designs
  • Terrain/problem handling abilities

Each robot is awarded points based upon their ability to handle the broadest range of challenges and the competitors with the most capability points win.

[edit] Innovation Machines

Brand-new devices made using robotic principles, and that serve not-so-obvious purposes, are judged on quality of workmanship, broadness of scope, and weirdness of application.

[edit] Robo-Art/Best Modified Appliance

Devices built or modify along aesthetically pleasing, and which deliberately move by themselves are judges. Purposefulness is not essential. There are two classes under this heading.

[edit] Class A:

Devices built entirely from scratch.

[edit] Class B:

Commonplace devices (toys, appliances, etc.) that have been extended or expanded from their original function while still retaining their basic shape.

[edit] Robot Sumo

There are two classes under this heading.

[edit] Class A:

Pairs of robots attempt to push each other off the edge of a 5 foot round platform. Contestants can be either self-contained, tethered, or radio controlled. The last one in the ring wins.

[edit] Class B:

Robots attempt to push each other off the edge of a 6 foot round platform, but they can be more aggressive about it. If a tie is declared, the winner will be decided based upon perceived aggressiveness.

[edit] Nanomouse

A smaller form of micromouse competition (see below), in which a simple, self-contained mini-robot mouse (built using 1 or 2 ICs) attempt to solve and work its way through a simple, connected maze using only The fastest competitor wins.

[edit] Micromouse

Open to individuals or teams, small self-contained robots attempt to negotiate an unconnected maze from an outside corner to the middle, in the shortest possible time (without crashing).

Ever since its inception the micromouse competition has been one of the ultimate challenges for robot enthusiasts.

There are two classes micromouse competition:

[edit] Class A:

Competition follows official micromouse rules.

[edit] Class B:

Competition also follows official micromouse rules, but entrants are encouraged to cheat in any way they can think of, provided the maze is not damaged.

NOTE: Micromouse competition rules may vary from region to region and from year to year

[edit] Aerobot Competition

Given , An AUTONOMOUS flying vehicle (in BEAM terminology, a Flier), capable of launching itself, must attempt find a randomly placed target within a square drop zone, measuring 25 foot on each side, drop a marker on it, and return to its launchpad outside the zone for landing. Each competitor is judged on a point system based upon control ability, drop accuracy, repeatability, and finally, run time.

[edit] Misc. Competitions

Editors Note: There is one other item with its own rules page It is mentioned here, but was not part of the original material that this BEAM Wiki page has been derived from.

You're a hobbyist, artist, engineer or frustrated tinker. You had an idea for a machine so you built it by hand. It works but you've had no forum for display and comparison. You'd like to attend the BEAM games but you're worried that your device doesn't fit any category.

Don't worry.

Judging will be based upon individual interviews and demonstrations with the designer and the displayed, functional robot device.

[edit] Awards

Editors Note: As with the rest of the material on this page, the following comes from the original [ Events] page, which was part of the <tt>(now defunct) LANL BEAM site. It is included here for historic reference purposes only, and does not mean that the information applies to any current or future BEAM Robotics Competitions.</tt>

As in the real Olympics Games, medals and awards will be offered to the first three winners in every category; Gold for first, Silver for second, and Bronze for third. Unlike the real Olympics, however, there is a 4th award for every competition category called the "Lunatic Fringe" award (first invented and presented at the 3rd Artificial Life conference in Santa Fe by Dr. Chris Langton to an anonymous presenter) which awards ingenuity in design despite failure or success.

The types of prizes shall be based upon two factors:

  1. The availability of prizes relevant to building future robots.
  2. The number of sponsors who donate prizes for promotional consideration.

(There used to be a third category which took into account the age of the designers, but as we've had so many surprising upsets in past games [i.e.: 10 year olds consistently whupping University Profs in equal competition, we've dropped it. When it is seen to be relevant again, it shall be re-introduced. Until then, all designers shall be considered equally regardless of age, gender, race, species, or reputation).

There are also prizes awarded for all valid and notable, if not winning, robotic competitors. These awards include (but are not limited to):

  1. Best Overall Robot Designs: Awarded to those individuals or teams whose robots exhibit the greatest skill, integration, talent, and technology, which actually work.
  2. Special Technical Awards: Awarded to those individuals or teams whose robots embody the best technical know-how and mechanical complexity, working or not.
  3. Special Weirdness Awards: Awarded to those individuals or teams whose robots show the best example of bizarre. although essential, innovation, application, and special effects.
  4. Ecology Awards: Awarded to those individuals or teams whose robots show the best example of innovation, application, and elegance, despite being made almost exclusively from recycled materials, and/or powered by energy-efficient means.
  5. Efficiency Awards: Awarded to those individuals or teams whose robots employ the best non-battery powered designs, in a frame designed to last.
  6. Artificial Life Awards: Awarded to those individuals or teams whose robots show the greatest ability or potential to "look out for themselves".

There is also a single special prize awarded to the youngest participant who submits a valid entry. The entrant will be asked to describe their robot design and construction plans in reasonable detail, to demonstrate his or her level of understanding.

As well, any Robot Olympic records made by competitors shall be kept track of from competition to competition.

Prizes in the past have ranged from complete Motorola Development Systems to laptop computers to portable compact disc players (which can provide key parts to robotic enthusiasts). Cash awards are not guaranteed, although travel and accommodation assistance is available for long-distance travelers.

[edit] Also See:

This section conatains two lists.

On the left is a list of links to the rules for the BEAM ROBOT GAMES events.

On the right is a list of links the results of past BEAM ROBOT GAMES competitions.

[edit] Also See:

Individual BEAM Game Events Past BEAM Robot Games

BEAM Events at the ECRG and CNRG

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