Day One is game-face day. One needs to make entrance to international robotic dog soccer competitions. Tucker, Jesse and I decide to take care of registration. Jesse asks me: “Are you sure you have the registration materials?” “I’ve got it covered. No problem.” So we stroll.
Suddenly, as we stroll through midtown Atlanta, I’m hungry as all get-up. So where do we go? That’s right, American’s Kitchen: CVS Pharmacy. A few granola bars later, I’m straight. So after some guessing, we think that our best bet to get to Georgia Tech campus is to catch a bus 12 blocks away. We get there. Man, is it hot, we think. We wait around wondering if we’ve reached the right place. Finally, we see a special ‘Stinger Bus’ fitted with a ‘ROBOCUP’ sign. I grimaced as it isn’t properly punctuated as ‘RoboCup’. Never the less, despite their sheer insolence, we board. On the bus… RoboCup people from foreign lands! Sweet!
RoboCup Juniors board! A bunch had a hat, I clearly remember, with ‘SLOVAKIA’ on the brim. That was pretty cool. We get ferried over to the registration building. I remember having the distinct feeling that I was far cooler than everyone else because I was an American speaking english to the American RoboCup staff. I thought it was just so awesome that I could give them a registration experience in non-broken english. I felt like the GermanTeam @ RoboCup 2006! That feeling faded quickly….
Anyways, remember how prepared I was for registration? Nope. Let’s leave it at that. Thanks to some quick thinking by Jesse and Tucker, we solved the registration problem.
Waiting for the bus back to the Fox Theatre, which would be our basecamp for the near entirety of the RoboCup 20007 experience, we ran into Texas and Microsoft. With Texas, I immediately connected with Tekin, everyone’s favorite Turkish dude studying in Texas, and a new recruit, who we would get to know well, Todd. Looks like Austin Villa, the Texas team, was going to be a two-person operation this year. I wondered to myself, ‘where has all the American fire for RoboCup gone?’.
With Microsoft, I gladly shook hands with Walter and Matthias. Now, these guys are RoboCup legends. They are bloody awesome. We met them in Atlanta in 2006, and I’ve only begun to be something less than intimidated by them. Looks like they just brought four people for the tournament. Walter expresses remorse as they ‘instead of bringing one good team, we’ve brought two crappy teams’.
Last year, they finished third in the Four-Legged League, beating the GermanTeam triumphantly after breaking away and competing on their own for the first time. Last year, in Bremen, they had an army. A German-speaking, beautiful army. My mother was impressed how they had calibraters for so many things. They even had a guy who’s sole purpose was seemingly to waive a flag whenever they scored. In 2007, just four. But, they also brought more for the Doh’Bots — the greatest named humanoid team since, well, a while. Anyways, Walter was anxious when I said that we improved a lot since Hannover, at the German Open, where they saw us, but did not compete. Tucker flushed his apprehension out by telling them the kind of boot-camp hours I kept with the development team. We were kind of bragging, and in an annoying way. We had to prove it after-all, and I was wondering if we would.
The bus finally came and we joined Joho and the rest of the nBites that had setup shop at the very front of the room chock’full o’ tables at the Fox. Joho, in his normal, gregarious self, decided to pick the most prominent, lazy table. We pulled it away from the rest of the tables so we could access it easier, but in the process it made it more pronounced. Immediately, I set into a kind of calculated panic.
This only being my fourth RoboCup tournament, I inevitably go into the same routine. I think that every other team in the room is better than us, has been working harder, and is way smarter. I freak out until I see other team’s dogs sucking and my dogs grabbing the ball and doing good stuff. Particularly grabbing. That is just so important. There is something intrinsic about getting the dog to go the ball and just GRABBING it. Inherently, that means it is legit. So, I immediately go off and try to get something, anything, working. But I fail and don’t have much to do until vision properly gets calibrated.
So, the carpet (for the robots to play on) at the Fox is not what the Atlantians said it would be. They told us which carpets they would be using way ahead of time, and we went ahead and bought the same. Of course, they changed it. So, I yell at George to go calibrate odometry while yelling at Georgia for its poor RoboCup venue setup. George’s calibration is actually somewhat easy to explain. He needs to make sure that how fast the robot thinks he walks is how fast he actually walks. On different carpets he be slower, or faster (!), then he is in the lab. Thankfully, the odometry difference is within some loosely-defined margin of error. George was very happy about this.
Suddenly, we run into ze Germans. I had been dreading this. You see, it all goes back to the German Open. The nBites and the GermanTeam really bonded in Hannover. We were chums. We said ‘Prost!’ with beers and stared into each other’s eyes. Naturally, I had to go mess it all up on an e-mail rampage about their fixing of the Aibo necks. I was convinced that they were getting an unfair advantage. But, in the end, Jorg produced a quality how-to fix repair website and the NUbots were able to fix some of their old robots, as were some of the asian teams. So, I guess good things came out of it.
Regardless of the success of the email, I was still dreading seeing them. I hadn’t smoothed things over with them via e-mail and so I was worried that when I said ‘Hey, Wassup?’ and extended my hand, Matthias or Jorg would kick me in the shins, procede to walk over to our table and start ripping aibo legs off their bodies, and then walk away. Thankfully, German people have style. Most of them I greeted kindly and warmly, did some standard trash-talking, and I wasn’t even thinking about the neck joint issue. I finally brought it up with Jorg and we cleared the air. I felt like Ferd’s proper successor: the Northern Bites world ambassador. Things were ROLLing.
So, this is about the time where everything turns into a blur. But, the biggest thing that I remember is the lighting. We lost a whole day watching the workers set it up. FYI to all future RoboCup venue people: you need at least one full set-up day for the venue, and then two full set-up days for the teams. You can’t merge the venue set-up with the team set-up. Because the teams can’t do anything. And that’s what we did : nothing. On to Day 2.
Hold on hot-shot. The evening ain’t done yet. Thanks to a sparkling memory from T-Dogg (aka Herr Tucker). So, due to my extreme stress, Jesse did something smart. He took me to the bar. Rather, a nice italian restaurant that we would end up going to twice.
It was me, Mark, Jesse, Tucker, and Jeremy. Decent food, not too expensive. I ended up picking up the tab, rather than have the embarrassment of sorting out the check with petty cash (I would get reimbursed!).
My stress would be focused on the lighting situation and how dire it seemed. I was extremely frustrated @ the local organizing committee. They simply weren’t doing their jobs. We shared a few beers and then hobbled back to our palace, where we would be waking at 7 to meet lighting dudes in the morning.